As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, sports leagues are trying to be proactive in how to best combat the virus that has already brought all Italian sports to a halt. The NCAA just announced that March Madness will take place without fans. The Golden State Warriors are planning to play against the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night inside an empty arena, as the NBA is still discussing what the next steps are. In the midst of all this, the Chinese Basketball Association informed American players that they should return to China as soon as this weekend, in preparation for the league to resume in early April, as reported by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
The CBA postponed the season back in late January due to the coronavirus, with a lot of the foreign-born players being sent back home to curb the risk of the virus spreading. The league is still determining how to move forward with the rest of their schedule, some options include hosting all the teams in one or two cities for the remainder of the season, shortening the schedule, and playing without fans in attendance, per Givony. Additionally, the CBA is reportedly threatening lifetime bans for players who do not intend on returning to finish out the season, as well as two-to-three-year bans of league agency licenses for those players’ representation.
In a translated memo that was sent to teams in the CBA, the league said:
“In January 2020, the new coronavirus broke out in many places across the country. According to the requirements of national epidemic prevention and control, we postponed the subsequent games of the 2019-2020 CBA season scheduled to be held on February 1. At present, the situation of epidemic prevention and control in CBA cities is basically stable. In order to better respond to the national requirements on precise prevention and control, solid and orderly promotion of return to work and production, shoulder the mission and task of sports confidence, warm people’s hearts and gather people’s hearts, according to the relevant requirements of China Basketball Association on the restart of the league, the rest of the games of the 2019-2020 CBA season will restart from the beginning of April.”
“All clubs and teams are requested to prepare for the restart of CBA League as early as April 2. At the same time, all teams should comply with the relevant requirements of the national and local epidemic prevention and control departments, continue to strengthen the epidemic prevention and control work, do a good job in making detailed and solid security measures such as epidemic prevention and control, and ensure the health and safety of club and team members. Details of the restart will be notified separately.”
There are roughly 40 American players who have contracts with the CBA, including Jeremy Lin, Lance Stephenson and Ty Lawson, and while nothing is official yet, Givony reports that there are some players who have made it clear that they have no intention on returning to China to finish out the season due to safety concerns. Stephenson had been in talks with the Indiana Pacers to rejoin the NBA, but he would need the clearance from his team in China, as well as FIBA, to make that move.