“Our local guidelines allow us to have fans,” Koonin said. “We are previewing this with local governments prior to opening, but we’re learning from the Falcons and the University of Georgia and others on protocols and processes to have fans in the stands.”
NBA teams are all operating under different local guidelines in their cities, so some teams may not be able to have fans at all; it depends on their local rules.
The NBA season will start Dec. 22, delayed from its original start date in October because of the coronavirus, but the Hawks likely will open Dec. 23 and play just a few home games at State Farm Arena before MLK Day, since road trips will last longer this season as the league aims to limit travel. They view those games with family and friends of staff present as a trial run to make sure their protocols are effective and they have a routine down pat.
“We’re delighted to have people, but again, we have a responsibility for our guests, and we want to do everything right to create both safe and enjoyable experiences,” Koonin said. “And we think we’re going to be able to accomplish both.”
The Hawks will also wear their new MLK jerseys on that night.
Hawks leadership views this as a fluid situation, so changes to the plan could be made. On a positive note, more fans could be allowed later in the season, depending on the development of an effective vaccine and if it can be distributed.