Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose city was picked to host the NBA All-Star Game and skills competitions on March 7, raised major concerns Tuesday about the notion of fans coming to the city for the events.
“People should not travel to Atlanta to party,” she said in a statement.
“Under normal circumstances, we would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this is not a typical year,” Bottoms said. “I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party.”
Bottoms also said there will be “no NBA-sanctioned events open to the public” and that the city strongly encourages local businesses “not to host events in the city related to this game.”
Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and others have spoken out in recent days to express their unhappiness about the idea of playing an All-Star Game during a pandemic — and wedging it into an already jam-packed and truncated season.
The NBA told teams Monday that strict protocols will be in place for the All-Star events: Players will be allowed a very limited number of guests; all participants must travel to Atlanta by private car or plane; and for the most part, players will be allowed to leave their hotels only for All-Star events at the arena.
Tickets will not be sold. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this week that some vaccinated front-line workers will be invited to attend, but there will not be events for the general public — an obvious change from past All-Star Weekends, which attract tens of thousands of fans for the game, parties and atmosphere.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.