Coronavirus fears prompt MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS to close locker rooms to media

Marcus White | NBC SPORTS

MLB, MLS, the NBA and NHL will limit locker-room access to just players and “essential” team personnel in order to limit coronavirus’ spread, the four leagues announced in a joint statement Monday. 

“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 read.

“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.”

The United States has 650 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has deemed COVID-19. Twenty-six people have died from the virus. 

Countries with more confirmed cases have held sporting events in empty venues or canceled them entirely. Italy, which has the second-highest number of confirmed cases, indefinitely suspended all sporting events in the country as the country was placed under lockdown. China and South Korea have delayed the start of its club soccer seasons. 

In the United States, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. was canceled Sunday. School districts in Northern California have closed amid coronavirus concerns, forcing in-season sports teams to forfeit games. Some weekend games in the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament were played in empty arenas.