MIAMI (WSVN) – The Miami Heat allowed select fans to attend their game versus the Los Angeles Clippers at the AmericanAirlines Arena, marking the first time fans were allowed inside the building since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
With the help of COVID-19 detection dogs, the Heat allowed 1,500 season ticket holders into the downtown Miami arena for the Thursday night game.
“We’ll ask you to stand in line, to put your hands by your sides,” said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat’s Executive Vice President of Business Strategy. “The dog will simply walk past you. If they don’t detect anything, they’ll continue to move on, and you get into the arena.”
Heat officials said if the COVID-19 detection dog sits down, there is no argument as to whether or not that fan can remain at the arena. They will get a refund and must leave the premises.
“If they do detect something on you, they’ll sit down by you,” Jafarian added. “A nice, gentle signal to the handler to let somebody know this person is presumptive positive. We will ask you to step out of the line, and we’ll give you a refund and send you on your way.”
The Heat have lost four straight games heading into their game against the Clippers, and they hope fans will help them break their current losing streak.
“Having people in the building, you know, that’s what our guys play for,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The players said they are anxiously awaiting the fans’ arrival.
“It’s something we’re looking forward to: just getting the fans back in,” guard Kendrick Nunn said.
“It’s good to keep gradually getting Heat nation in there,” center Bam Adebayo said.
“We truly miss them and their support,” guard Avery Bradley said. “Having them in and creating that atmosphere for us, that’s what the game is all about. I feel like it really energizes us.”
Testing began at around 6:45 p.m. outside of the arena.
“I’m so proud to be here tonight,” Heat fan Biscayne Birdman said. “Whether we win or lose, who cares. I’m in the house with our boys — bottom line. We’re finally here at least, for at least 20% of our season ticket holders, so I am admired, and I feel ecstatic, and I feel like a little kid at Disney World.”
“It’s very meaningful,” Heat fan Michelle Hollister said. “We’re glad to be able to be out and do something normal, somewhat normal, and cheer on our team.”
Tight security was seen as fans entered the downtown Miami arena, which included the COVID-19 detection dogs. However, fans did not seem to mind the added layer of security.
“It’s a lot better to go to the game to know you’re safe than watch from home,” Heat fan Tzvi Grossman said. “We’ve been on the couch too long.”
“Feels good, and the K-9 dogs — I think, personally, it’s great,” Heat fan Anibal Liguere said.
The Heat plan to increase the number of fans allowed into the arena as the season progresses. Thursday night, no COVID-19 was detected as a result of the dog’s screening.
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