NEW YORK – Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer (MLS), the NBA and NHL are all closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, including media, the leagues declared in a joint statement Monday night.
The combined effort via statement of the four leagues currently in season said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.
The Pro Basketball Writers Association. issued its own statement in conjunction with the NBA announcement stating their policies and concern, but noting the importance to return to full access as soon as possible.
“The coronavirus poses a serious health threat to everyone. The Professional Basketball Writers Association believes the safety of fans, players, team employees, arena workers and the media who cover the league must be protected. Our thoughts are with all people who already have been adversely impacted by the virus.
“Therefore, we understand the NBA’s decision to temporarily close locker rooms to everyone but players and essential team personnel with the NBA’s promise that once the coronavirus crisis abates, the league will restore full access to the journalists who cover the league.
“Our members remain committed to providing thorough, insightful and fair coverage. Locker room access is essential to good sports journalism. It allows for mutually respectful working relationships to be built, story ideas to form and for organic conversation to occur. It leads to richer stories and more informed reporting.”
Historically, the NBA players are noted as the best to cover and most accessible in the worldwide sports industry and there’s been a long and mutually beneficial respect for media forged by the likes of Julius Erving and Magic Johnson who set a tone of cooperation between NBA players, teams and the media who cover the league, and its been passed down through the decades.
The NHL (23 players on rosters) and the NBA (15-18 players) are both “indoor” sports and will have challenges within their arenas for additional space to conduct interviews. All leagues are planning to institute the policy on Tuesday.
The NFL, America’s most popular sports league, is not in season and is not a part of the policy change.