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Photo: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

The NBA is teaming up with Microsoft to bring virtual fans to its live games in Orlando, Florida, starting July 30, using Microsoft's new "together mode," which it debuted earlier this month.

Why it matters: The move is part of the league's overhaul to how it presents games during the coronavirus pandemic. It will also position cameras closer to players to mimic the vantage point of seats near the court.

How it works:

  • Courts in Orlando will be outfitted with 17-foot-tall LED screens that wrap around the arena, allowing hundreds of fans to participate digitally.
  • Fans taking part will be chosen by each team and use Microsoft Teams to watch the game and interact with their fellow fans. They'll be both seen and heard in the TV broadcasts.
  • There will also be sections for players' families.
  • The NBA plans to incorporate this format into each game.

In addition, the NBA is offering up new camera angles for TV viewers to try to make the at-home experience better than it has been in the past.

  • The NBA says games in Orlando will feature up to 31 cameras (mostly robotically controlled).
  • Among the new angles are a courtside camera that simulates being about 10 rows back in the stadium, a "below the rim" cam capturing action close to the basket and a "rail cam" capturing the action all along the baseline.

The big picture: Different teams, leagues and television networks are doing different things to deal with empty stadiums. Some baseball teams are including cardboard cutouts of fans, while others are leaving their seats empty. Fox has experimented with digitized virtual crowds.

Go deeper: NBA players pick social justice jersey messaging

Go deeper

Nov 3, 2020 - Sports

Most NFL games had fans this week

Note: Lincoln Financial Field indicates max capacity, not attendance (unconfirmed). Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios.

Nine of the 14 games in NFL Week 8 permitted fans, ranging from 500 friends and family in Detroit to over 12,000 spectators in Miami.

Of note: In most cases, the official attendance fell short of the maximum number of fans allowed, signaling that ticket demand is lagging.

Nov 4, 2020 - Sports

NFL steps up coronavirus protocols with new mask requirements

A view as the Baltimore Ravens play against the Washington Football Team at FedExField in October in Landover, Md. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL sent a memo to teams on Tuesday alerting them to stepped-up precautions against COVID-19, including on face masks and social distancing, the NFL Network first reported.

The big picture: As coronavirus cases surge across the U.S., the Baltimore Ravens placed seven defensive players on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday following cornerback Marlon Humphrey's positive test. Under the new protocols, the NFL will require masks be worn during physical interactions postgame and is advising teams to ask players to wear face coverings on the sidelines and in locker rooms.

Go deeper: Most NFL games had fans this week

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.