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Is the NBA really coming back next month? Players raise doubts, citing social activism, health

So, is the NBA is coming back in the Orlando "bubble" on July 31? Unclear.

It's gotten qualified support from Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House as noted by Yahoo Sports: "“I actually have looked at that plan and it’s really quite creative what they are really trying to do — and I think they might very well be successful with it — is to create a situation where it is as safe as it possibly could be for the players by creating this bubble."

Though the NBA Players Association did okay a re-start, pending further details, concerns have arisen about not just the coronavirus pandemic but also the role of the #blacklivesmatter protests for a league with a large majority of black players, whether African-American or with African roots.

As Paolo Uggetti wrote for The Ringer 6/12/20, Maybe the NBA’s Return Won’t Be As Easy As It Seemed, "cracks have begun to show, not only in the [NBA's] proposal itself but among the NBA’s players too."

Michael Lee wrote yesterday for The Athletic:
One prominent agent told me that many of his clients don’t support the bubble concept. When I asked which issue led to the most hesitation – social justice, the novel coronavirus, injury fears or being sequestered, the agent replied, “All of the above.”

The players raise questions

As Tom Ziller of Good Morning Its Basketball wrote 6/15/20, Players disagreeing about the restart is only natural:
A week after voting in favor of the league’s season resumption plans, Kyrie Irving, a member of the NBA players’ union’s executive committee, invited the entire membership and WNBA players to a call to discuss those plans, social justice and more. And based on reporting from Yahoo!’s Chris Haynes, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick, Kyrie has flipped: he appears to think players should not go to Orlando as it will distract from the social movement lighting up the nation.
Some share that sentiment, and some worry about injuries, leading Ziller to conclude that "the momentum [for re-start] has screeched to a halt," even as plans for safety protocols in Orlando remain unclear.

Yahoo Sports reported that Irving led a Zoom conference call with more than 80 NBA players. However, superstar LeBron James, according to The Athletic, thinks playing the games can elevate the players' voices for racial justice and voting rights.

The Nets' Garrett Temple said that, by playing, these black men can build wealth: “It is not a lot of money when think about it in the grand scheme of America. But we can start having a little bit of money, create a little bit of generational wealth.”

Money from the teams?

Ziller notes:
The players have leverage here. If there are some commitments on this issue the players collectively want to extract from the league’s 30 owners, now’s the time. This would be an opportune way to strengthen the movement. The Sacramento Kings have made some actual commitments in the community, much to their credit. Players could demand that all 30 teams invest money, time, attention and staff to black issues in their cities before Orlando. (Players should not have to demand this. Fans should be demanding this. Teams should be doing this on their own. The league should be doing this!)
Players, he suggests, could do much more, such as getting rid of the national anthem, or simply deciding not to play.

Today, Ziller targets the seemingly contradictory rhetoric from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, suggesting:

Silver wants the NBA to be a respite from coronavirus but not the social movement. He is saying that bringing 22 teams to Orlando in the middle of a pandemic will help America heal from the virus in some way, and will also allow the league to continue to raise the bar for action when it comes to Black Lives Matter. Viewers can tune in to escape the sorrow COVID-19 has wrought; the audience will not have a bubble that avoids frank talk about racism and police violence.
But Ziller notes that players have reason to be skeptical, given the limited progress the NBA has made, for example still allowing for players to be fined for not standing during the national anthem.

No more anthem?

Writing 6/14/20, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote The restart of sports is the perfect time to end the national anthem ritual before games, noting that it makes a lot less sense with no audience:
What this experiment can become then is an opportunity to finally do away with a silly ritual. Permanently. Forget, for a moment, the player protests during the anthem, which adds another layer to the argument (more on that later). The reasons for performing this song before every game are just silly, and they create a false equivalence between patriotism and sports. One has nothing to do with the other.

For fans, sports are entertainment events. You pay for a performance. 
And teams, of course, are "sports entertainment corporations," to quote Bettina Damiani.

Wrote Bondy:
There are moments in time, like directly after 9/11, when it felt more appropriate. The anthem is also fitting at the Olympics, or the World Cup. But there’s really no connection between The Star Spangled Banner and two teams playing football from Philadelphia and East Rutherford.
Maybe it "felt more appropriate" after 9/11, but the same argument stands--the anthem wasn't played at other events. Bondy notes the enormous spending by the Department of Defense on martial events.


  1. Stop paying them and watch what happens.


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