Even with the pharmaceutical industry racing to get this done, every respected expert says it will be 2021 before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.
That could hit the NBA and sports across the board this fall and coming winter.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll found three-quarters of all Americans and 61% of sports fans will not return to arenas for games until there is a coronavirus vaccine available.
Asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before the development of a vaccine, 72% of Americans said they would not attend games, with 12% saying they would if social distancing could be maintained. Only 13% said they would feel safe attending as in the past. Among sports fans the number drops to a still significant 61%.
That has to concern the NBA and league owners as they think ahead to games in the fall/winter, whenever next season starts up.
That said, fans do want their sports and would watch games broadcast without fans in the stands, something the NBA is considering to get in the playoffs and crown a champion this year.
As for the possibility of playing games with no fans present, a similar number – 76% – said they would watch broadcasts of the games with the same interest as before, with only 16% saying they would be less interested and 7% saying they would be more interested.
It would be interesting to see a followup poll that breaks these numbers down both by sport and by region. Would college football fans in Alabama be more likely to attend a game in person than an NBA fan in Portland? If so, how much more likely? How big a drop off would there be for NFL games compared to baseball or the NBA? Also, as the curve flattens (*knocks on wood*) and eventually life returns to something closer to normal, will these poll numbers change as people try to get back to their lives?
The Seton Hall poll interviewed 762 people nationwide and used both landlines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.