by Dustin Brewer
With more players testing positive and still a month away from the NBA’s restart in Orlando, FL, Dustin takes a look at the pros & cons and wonders what it would take to make the NBA actually cancel the season.
IF all things go according to plan, the NBA season will restart in Orlando, FL on July 30th in a “bubble” at the Disney World Resort. And I say IF with the largest, boldest font I can muster because with the restart 31 days away, its’ status is more questionable than ever.
The NBA conducted the first of many COVID-19 tests on all 302 players in the league ahead of the Orlando restart and 16 of 302 tested positive. That’s 5%, which is a higher infection rate than any other sports league that has returned after having their season delayed by the coronavirus.
On Monday, June 29th, Brooklyn Nets players Spencer Dinwiddie & DeAndre Jordan both announced that they had tested positive and they’re all but likely not going with the team to Orlando. Over the weekend, Sacramento Kings player Jabari Parker (yeah, I didn’t realize he was on the Kings now either) was photographed playing tennis without a mask while out in public, just a few days after testing positive for COVID (the Kings have said they will investigate the incident).
In a conference call with reporters last Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver took a surprising stance given how progressive the league has been since he took the helm; he said the NBA would stay the course and continue with their plan:
“We know that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future,” Silver said on his conference call. “And we are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now.”
He further argued that the league would be able to stay safe with their bubble approach:
“My ultimate conclusion is that we can’t outrun the virus, and that this is what we’re gonna be living with for the foreseeable future — which is why we designed the campus the way we did, and so it’s a closed network; and while it’s not impermeable, we are in essence protected from cases around us. At least, that’s the model. So for those reasons, we’re still very comfortable being in Orlando.”
All of that sounds very good except for one gaping hole in their bubble: the Disney World employees will be able to enter and exit the facility because Disney World will continue to be open to the general public while the NBA season is continuing. So a Disney cast member could easily spend hours with the general public and then stroll right into the NBA’s “closed network” to grab their things before leaving for the day and doing it all again the next day.
With how fast more players are testing positive combined with more players dropping out of the restart altogether, it’s safe to say that there’s much more that would have to happen for the season to be scrapped altogether, especially given how the league has stayed so committed to continuing. But, with more players also voicing their concerns that a restart would diminish the protests towards ending social injustices, it’s just one hurdle after another that the league has had to navigate.
For their part, the NBA & the NBAPA have remained open to doing whatever they can to allow players participating in the restart to amplify their voices with ideas including letting players replace their last names on jerseys with various social justice statements and early Monday morning the NBA announced that they plan on painting Black Lives Matter on the Orlando courts.
While these gestures show the league’s willingness to work with the NBAPA to help appease players wanting to continue to speak up, if they keep trying to push through like normal as more players test positive for coronavirus or drop out of the restart altogether, anything else they do for social justice may just ring hollow.
The country is in an unprecedented social justice movement while also still being smack in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic that seems to have gotten worse over the last few weeks, especially in the Orlando area and the entire state of Florida. The NBA can’t turn the other cheek on one problem without being confronted full-tilt by the other. In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer and every decision is a hard one to make, but if things keep unfolding the way they’ve been, they may not get the chance to make any decisions.