LeBron James shifts gears on coronavirus stance, is willing to play without fans

Last week, LeBron James said that he wasn’t willing to play if the NBA barred fans from attending games due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

“We play games without the fans?” James told reports. “Nah. Impossible. I ain’t playing. If I ain’t got fans in the crowd, that’s who I play for.”

On Tuesday, he changed his stance.

‘If they feel it’s best ...’

“When I was asked the question ... I had no idea that there was actually a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus,” James told reporters at shootaround on Tuesday. “Obviously, I would be very disappointed not having the fans, because that’s what I play for. ...

“I’d be disappointed in that. At the same time, you gotta listen to the people that’s keeping a track on what’s going on. If they feel it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we’ll all listen to them.”

LeBron James says he'd be "disappointed," but is willing to play games without fans if necessary. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

NBA moving forward with fans for now

As of Tuesday, the NBA has no plans to close arenas to fans as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States. The NBA has reportedly scheduled a conference call team among owners on Wednesday to further discuss the league’s response to the public health threat.

Other leagues and municipalities have taken more drastic measures in the face of the outbreak. The Ivy League canceled its basketball tournament scheduled for this week and Ohio governor Mike Dewine has asked for fans to be barred from indoor sporting events in the state, which would include Cleveland Cavaliers games and NCAA tournament games.

DeWine’s jurisdiction in enforcing the recommendation is unclear.

As of Tuesday, the NCAA and NBA have made clear that they intend to move forward with games as scheduled and with fans in arenas until further notice.

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