Basketball analyst Charles Barkley, who covers the NCAA tournament for CBS and Turner, urged the broadcasters to “close down” March Madness on Thursday as the coronavirus spread. The NCAA announced the previous day it would stage the tournament without most spectators, but Barkley said officials needed to go a step further. (See the audio below.)
“I’m going to say this and I’m probably going to get in trouble, because I work for Turner and March Madness and CBS,” he said on ESPN’s “Get Up.” “I think Turner Sports and CBS got to close down March Madness, man.”
Earlier in the week, before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the new virus a pandemic, the former NBA great said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” that the tournament should continue and not having fans in the stands would be a “travesty.” But by Thursday, he had changed his mind.
“You can’t have these players – even if there’s no fans in the stadium – you can’t have these players breathing on each other for two weeks. Even if they’re at a hotel, they’re going to be in different cities around the country. I hate to say it ― like I said I probably shouldn’t say it because I work for CBS ― I think we’re going to have to shut down March Madness until we know more.”
The NBA has suspended its season until further notice. Barkley suggested that NCAA tournament officials could reassess what to do in a few weeks, “but right now we need to take a pause.”
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