The NBA is optimistic that all of its teams will be able to host fans at full capacity in their home arenas next season, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
As Holmes explains, the NBA’s partnership with CLEAR, officially announced today in a press release, represents a key part of the league’s efforts to get fans back into buildings. A third of the league’s 30 teams have already been using the company’s Health Pass program, which allows fans to provide and verify their COVID-19-related health information before entering an arena, and more clubs are expected to follow suit.
When the 2020/21 season began, only a small handful of NBA teams were allowing any fans into games, but more teams have joined that list as the season has progressed. Currently, more than two-thirds of the league’s 30 franchises are hosting fans in some form.
The ever-growing number of individuals receiving coronavirus vaccinations will also be a factor in the league’s push to get arenas back to full capacity by the fall. As Holmes explains, teams must still comply with local and/or state protocols, but those restrictions should loosen in the coming months, and CLEAR’s Health Pass program will offer the ability to link an individual’s vaccination records to their account.
The Raptors may be a wild card in the NBA’s effort to return things to relative “normal” for 2021/22. The rate of vaccinations has been slower in Canada than in the U.S., and the province of Ontario has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 as of late, having just reinstituted a month-long stay-at-home order. The hope is that the situation will improve by the fall and that the displaced Raptors, who are spending the ’20/21 campaign in Tampa, will be able to return to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto next season.