Atlanta mayor: Fans not welcome to travel to NBA All-Star Game amid pandemic

The All-Star Game is the NBA's annual party, a three-day event for the league's players, alumni, fans and media to celebrate the best in the game — and cut loose.

Atlanta is not interested in playing host in the middle of a pandemic.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a statement on Tuesday urging fans not to travel to the city and discouraging bars and clubs from promoting events around the All-Star Game scheduled for March 7.

"Under normal circumstances, we would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star Game," Bottoms said, per NBC Atlanta's Chenue Her. "But this is not a typical year. 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. There will be no NBA-sanctioned events open to the public, and we strongly encourage promoters, clubs, bars, etc. not to host events in the city related to this game."

FILE-In this Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a press conference in Atlanta. Bottoms says the city continues to operate despite ongoing troubles caused by a cyberattack on its computer network last week. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms does not want NBA fans to travel to her city during a pandemic. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

NBA changed mind on canceling game

The NBA scrapped its initial plans to hold the All-Star Game this year in Indianapolis because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then last month, the league and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to hold a game in Atlanta.

Since then, the NBA has made plans to add the skills challenge, 3-point shootout and dunk contests to the event. Instead of spreading the contests out over the course of three days, all of the events will take place on March 7.

LeBron, Kawhi, Giannis slam plans

The plan has drawn sharp criticism for taking unnecessary risk amid the pandemic. Some of the league's top players, including LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, have spoken out against the game.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James told reporters earlier this month. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game."

Leonard characterized the event as a money grab.

"It is what it is," Leonard said. "We all know why we're playing it. It's money on the line. It's opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much."

Despite the criticism from top players, the union and its president, Chris Paul, signed off on the game.

Was Bottoms watching what happened in Tampa?

Bottoms' approach to hosting the game stands in contrast to Tampa-area leadership, which encouraged fans to travel and celebrate the Super Bowl.

"Spend an entire week here," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a news conference alongside Tampa Mayor Jane Castor before the game. "Or two weeks, for that matter here. Come on down right away.

"First and foremost, you're going to be coming to an area that takes COVID safety and dealing with this pandemic seriously."

The day after the Super Bowl, Castor blasted the throngs of maskless fans who took to bars and streets before, during and after the game in violation of public health and social distancing protocols.

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