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NBA reportedly expects full arenas for games starting next season

The NBA was always straightforward about their plan for this season: Get through it, play enough games to meet television contract requirements, try to keep players healthy while trying to recoup as much money as possible (all while knowing teams will lose a lot this season). Then, next season, get back to “normal” with a schedule that starts in October and full arenas.

The NBA expects the second part of that — full arenas — to happen in the fall thanks to the speed of the vaccine rollout in recent months, reports Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

What’s new is the NBA teaming up with biometric screening company CLEAR — something familiar to many from airport security lines — as a way to help fans both show they are vaccinated and help those fans feel safe in an arena full of people. From Holmes at ESPN.

A key aspect toward that effort is the NBA’s new multiyear leaguewide partnership with Clear, a biometric screening company known for its expedited security process at hundreds of airports worldwide. The partnership makes CLEAR’s COVID-19 health screening technology available to all 30 teams in their NBA arenas, and it’s expected to help facilitate more fans returning to games, though it’s up to each team how to use the technology.

Fans can download the CLEAR health app, upload a picture of themselves and proof of vaccination, and answer a few health screening questions. From a press release from CLEAR the corporation:

CLEAR’s Health Pass allows fans to securely access and verify their health information prior to entering an arena. Additionally, as COVID-19 vaccines continue to be administered across the country, CLEAR’s Health Pass will soon offer the ability to link an individual’s vaccination records to their Health Pass account.

Again from ESPN:

Before entering the venue, fans can open the app, verify their identity with another selfie and then answer health survey questions. (There are also expected to be an unspecified number of Clear kiosks where fans receive a temperature check and scan their QR code.) Fans are issued a red or green notification depending on their COVID-related health information.

A Clear spokesperson noted that the arenas only receive information about whether a fan has passed the requirements for access and not any private health information from the individual.

The goal is to create a safe environment — and just as importantly, make people feel safe filling indoor arenas again by the tens of thousands. The NBA’s economic model depends on those people. But these kinds of “vaccine passports” have also proven controversial and raise ethical questions.

It’s impossible to predict what life in the United States will look like come October, even if, as a nation, we reach a level of “herd immunity.” State restrictions may still vary and impact arenas. On a more individual level, some people can’t wait to get back to what life was like before the pandemic; others are warier and hesitant after the experience of the last year.

The NBA wants everyone to feel comfortable coming back to games — and spending their money — and is looking for ways to make people feel more comfortable doing so. They are hoping Clear can help with that.

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