Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

NBA should pay heed as poll finds most won't go to an indoor sporting event before vaccine

It may be a while before Americans feel comfortable returning to the Staples Center and other indoor arenas.
It may be a while before Americans feel comfortable returning to the Staples Center and other indoor arenas.
Image: (Getty Images)

NBA teams want to invite fans back inside ... in an arena ... in a surging pandemic. But a new poll suggests that a majority of Americans may not be as eager to return to indoor sports venues until there is a vaccine.

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How utterly responsible.

Today, a Seton Hall Sports Poll found that 67 percent of Americans would not attend a live indoor sports event before a COVID-19 vaccine. While Pfizer has developed a vaccine that is 95 percent effective, only 12.5 million doses will be made for Americans by the end of this year, so it will be months before it is widely available.

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With arena sports season approaching, leagues like the NBA and NHL should take note.

The poll was conducted over four days from Nov. 13-16 and surveyed 1,506 Americans from around the country. Seton Hall says the poll’s margin of error is 3.2 percent.

Respondents were polled as a whole and by fan identification; sports fan vs. non sports fan, and then by more specific subgroups (avid fan, average fan, casual fan, not a fan).

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While 67 percent of respondents said they would not go to an indoor game, 21 percent would attend an indoor game before a vaccine and 12 percent don’t have an opinion.

I’ll never understand these undecided voters.

Anyway, last week, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced their plans to bring in a “limited” number of fans into the Chesapeake Energy Arena for the upcoming season and the NBA sent a memo to teams outlining protocols to host spectators.

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Forty percent of the NBA’s revenue comes from the gate. Meaning Adam Silver, especially, wants butts in seats for Christmas.

Warriors billionaire owner, Joe Lacob, went as far as telling ESPN that he wants the team to host 50 percent capacity in the Chase Center. And no, it has nothing to do with “the Warriors just trying to make more money.” Right. “I’m trying to set a standard,” he told Ramona Shelburne, “I’m trying to show the world how this can be done, safely.” Here? In the U.S.? The international leader in COVID cases and deaths? OK.

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For Lacob, safety means rapid PCR testing for every fan that comes in the door. The more expensive test is more effective than the rapid antigen test, available to you, me, and the White House. But the rapid PCR test is not foolproof.

You don’t think there will be any false positives if 9,000 fans (half of Chase Center) attend Warriors games a couple times a week?

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Also, San Francisco public schools may not reopen till January and city restaurants shut down at 10 p.m. How will S.F. justify having basketball games with fans?

Maybe if NBA games were outside, more people would feel comfortable attending.

That will not happen, obviously, and it shouldn’t. But Seton Hall’s poll also found that 58 percent of respondents wouldn’t even go to an outdoor sporting event before a vaccine is widely available.

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There are a bunch of other interesting questions the poll considers, like the viewing experience of virtual fans and whether or not a limited number of spectators gives home teams an advantage. My favorite question in the survey is whether or not the Lakers/Dodgers/Lightning are a “less-deserving champion” than winners of previous years. It’s this year’s LeBron vs MJ or your favorite sports debate that won’t be resolved anytime soon.

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But in the weeks to come, NBA teams will roll out their fan policies and COVID protocols.

Based on this study, the league shouldn’t be surprised when their fans stay on the couch.

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