The National Basketball Association is more than a week into its successful restart and the Philippine Basketball Association—as well as the rest of the world —are watching closely not just to enjoy the exciting games but to also observe the best practices that need to be adopted in order to operate a sports league in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alaska Aces team owner Fred Uytengsu says the most important thing now is to closely monitor the NBA and pick up on what works so that the PBA can have its own restart.
“We have a lot to learn from what the NBA is doing. And I was on a call with Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum of the NBA. He explained the things that they were doing and obviously the precautions that they were doing to protect the players, the players’ families and all the allied people that were associated with it,” said Uytengsu in a recent ONE Sports interview.
“So for me, the first step is: let’s learn. Let’s learn from some of the best sports franchises and organizations in the world about what they do. What they can do. What works. What doesn’t work. And then we can see how we can adopt that in our own setting with the PBA.”
To limit the exposure of players to the public at large, the NBA—which used to play games in different venues all over the United States—has actually adopted the PBA method of holding its games in only specific venues. Most PBA games are held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and the Mall of Asia Arena.
The NBA is now inside a bubble in Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida. It is an isolation zone with strict rules to protect players of 22 teams from the Covid-19 pandemic during the 2019–20 season.
“We’re going to see closely what the NBA does with that because they’re trying to isolate the teams that will play. And the players that will play in one location. Not unlike what we do in the Philippines,” said Uytengsu.
“The challenge is, is it safe? Is it safe for the players? Is it safe for the game officials? For the TV production people. For the people who work in the arena. And then, is it safe for the fans to come and watch that?”
The NBA suspended 2019–20 season last March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19 hours before the Jazz road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Other sports leagues soon followed with safety and health protocols virtually putting a stop to all sports activities worldwide.
“What we have learned from this pandemic is the incredible desire of sports fans around the world to watch live sports. And when I say ‘live’ it’s not just in the arena but to watch live on television,” said Uytengsu.
“And you see that all over the world. The football fans in Europe. The basketball, baseball, hockey fans in North America. It’s been a huge void. So what’s happening is that people want some form of normalcy and there’s been a tremendous push to try and restore that.”
The whole world has been irrevocably changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. But everyone wants to go on with their lives with some semblance of normalcy. The resumption of PBA games is certainly a welcome step in that direction.
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