Four leagues close locker rooms due to coronavirus outbreak
Four American sports leagues announced Monday that only players and essential employees of teams with be allowed in locker rooms or clubhouses before and after sporting events due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus.Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer jointly revealed the policy, which bars media members from entering locker rooms or clubhouses. The leagues said the new policy begins on Tuesday."After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice," the statement said. "Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow's games and practices."We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment."As of Monday afternoon, the coronavirus worldwide death total was close to 4,000 with 26 deaths in the United States, according to USA Today.The announcement comes one day after the coronavirus outbreak led to the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. The two-week tennis event is one of the most popular stops on the ATP and WTA tours and the second-most prestigious tournament in the country behind the U.S. Open.MLB later sent out a separate statement in which it said it discussed the coronavirus issue with all 30 clubs. MLB said its actions were "taken out of an abundance of caution for the best interests of all."The league said it plans to move ahead with its playing schedule. Opening Day (March 26) is just 2 1/2 weeks away."The health and safety of everyone in our communities is of the utmost importance to us," MLB said in the statement. "We have been engaging on an ongoing basis with a wide range of public health experts, infectious disease specialists, and governmental agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to obtain the latest information."We are regularly conveying the guidance from these experts to clubs, players, and staff regarding prevention, good hygiene practices and the latest recommendations related to travel."We are continuing to monitor developments and will adjust as necessary. While MLB recognizes the fluidity of this rapidly evolving situation, our current intention is to play Spring Training and regular season games as scheduled."MLB said all teams will be required to provide the usual access to players, managers and club officials.The Associated Press Sports Editors organization took issue with the new policies of the four leagues, stressing it doesn't want access diminished during the coronavirus outbreak."We the entities covering pro and college sports in North America are concerned with the developing international outbreak of coronavirus and the need to contain it. We understand precautions may be necessary in the name of public health. We are intent on working with the leagues, teams and schools we cover to maintain safe work environments."We also must ensure the locker room access -- which we have negotiated over decades -- to players, coaches and staff is not unnecessarily limited in either the short or long term. We look forward to open communication with the leagues as, together, we deal with this serious health matter."On Friday, the NBA sent a memo to teams regarding the possibility of playing games without fans if the outbreak continues to worsen.
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