Until better coronavirus precautions are taken, locker room media bans are just a publicity stunt

The SAP Center, home of the San Jose Sharks, could host games with no fans over the next three weeks. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
The SAP Center, home of the San Jose Sharks, could host games with no fans over the next three weeks. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

The four major North American sports leagues that are currently in progress — the NHL, NBA, MLB, and MLS — are cutting off pre and postgame locker room access to the faction of beat reporters and sportswriters due to the panic caused by the coronavirus epidemic. 

In a joint statement, the leagues cited that this conclusion was made because of “the issues that can be associated with close contact,” between reporters and players in the locker room. 

Those media scrums can be awfully tight when crowding around a star player’s locker. I’ve had my personal bubble invaded far too often during those instances, so it’s somewhat understandable why such a decision was made. 

At the end of the day, the players need to be protected and 10-to-15 media members swelling around Pete Alonso’s locker for a soundbite doesn’t help the odds of someone catching something. Trust me, I’ve run into a fair share of mouthbreathers and middle-aged men who don’t know how to shield their faces while coughing up a storm during media availability sessions. 

For now, players will be made available in a press-conference setting to the media, which ultimately hurts the dynamic reporting from insiders and beat writers across the country. Some of the best stories I’ve ever written or read have come from one-on-one, candid moments with some of the game’s biggest names. 

Let’s not forget that germs can travel in such a setting, too.

This isn’t making things about the writers, either, this is making it about the access that sports journalists can bring to their readers daily. 

Ultimately, this ruling is nothing more than a publicity stunt considering the lack of precautions taken by the NHL, MLB, NBA, and MLS in almost every other facet of the gameday experience. 

Fans are still filling the arena every night and hundreds of them are up close and personal with the players. So is arena security, team personnel, along with scorers and officials, just to name a few.

Contrary to popular belief, media members are human just like those folks, who are just as likely to spread illness to the next person. 

To quote USA Today’s Nancy Armour in a brilliant column she published late Monday night, “It’s the equivalent of giving a couple of Tylenol to someone who is bleeding from the head.”

Last week, public health officials encouraged the San Jose Sharks to cancel their game against the Minnesota Wild after coronavirus hit Santa Clara. 

They didn’t and kept the doors open for 14,517 fans to show up. 

On Monday, Santa Clara County health officials announced a ban on all events that would draw crowds of over 1,000 people for the next three weeks. 

That could mean the Sharks will play three home games in an empty arena.

If these major sports leagues were actually concerned with the well-being of their members, they would play all their games in empty arenas. 

The idea of cramming in tens of thousands of fans on top of each other in direct proximity of these players during a pandemic that has affected over 100,000 people, killed around 3,500, and still has no vaccine is the definition of foolish. 

That should say everything you need to know about the business of sports, though: Keep out the journalists who get in for free with proper credentials, who dig for stories as the watchdog of fanatics everywhere, but let the general public keep spending their money to create a sea of germs inside these venues. 

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