The NBA will soon be requiring players and some staffers to to wear sensors as part of its contact tracing program, according to a league-wide memo obtained by ESPN.
These sensors were already used by the NBA in the bubble over the summer, but this is the first time the NBA will mandate that players and other staff wear them outside of the Orlando bubble. The NFL has required that players and coaches wear similar contact tracing sensors during its season.
The NBA has reportedly been testing these sensors since Dec. 23 and will require players to start wearing them on Jan. 7.
When will NBA players have to wear sensors?
ESPN reported that the sensors, which will be worn by Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals such as players, coaches and specific staff members, will need to be worn during team activities. That would include all team travel, such as on the team bus or plane, traveling to and from the arena, as well as when practicing at the team facility or at their home facility. Sensors would not need to be worn during games, at home or at the team hotel while traveling.
What will the sensors be measuring?
The sensors will reportedly be recording the “distance and duration of in-person interactions” with someone else who is wearing a sensor, according to ESPN. While contact tracing measures may also include interviews with players and staff and the review of relevant camera footage, the sensors will reportedly not be recording GPS location and will only activate when they come within six feet of another sensor.
While the sensors that were worn in the bubble had an audible proximity alarm that went off whenever wearers came within six feet of each other, ESPN reported that those alarms are expected to be disabled.
An NBA health official, who spoke to ESPN anonymously, said that the goal is to make it significantly easier to identify the close contacts of someone who has tested positive, and avoid quarantining someone who doesn’t have to be. The sensors may also be able to help prevent close contacts by identifying areas where players and staff are frequently interacting in close proximity to each other.
Compliance and discipline
According to ESPN, wearing the sensors will be mandatory and failure to do so will result in discipline, though it’s not yet known what that discipline will be.
It’s expected that there will be some issues getting everyone to wear them as they should, since the setup of the NBA season is much more complex than the NFL. Football teams travel for one game a week but practice at the same facility most of the time. NBA teams are constantly traveling, so things like sensor collection, charging and redistribution will have to be worked out. At least two staff members per team will reportedly be in charge of the sensor program.
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