Last week, team representatives to the NBA players’ union voted to “approve further negotiations” on a 22-team restart of the NBA season in Orlando. While the details have yet to be worked out — this entire plan is still written in pencil, not pen — it was an endorsement of the restart idea.
They didn’t speak for everyone.
A “significant” number of players are pushing back and wanting a new NBA vote from all the players on a restart, and they reportedly will be taking part in a zoom call Friday night to unify in their opposition.
Those players have a number of concerns.
For one, they want more freedom of movement in the bubble.
There's growing concern re NBA's bubble plan. Players want more freedom of movement while in Orlando. One agent estimates that 2/3 of the top 40 would refuse to play under the proposed restrictions. https://t.co/IrM5MHPu5e
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) June 12, 2020
Under a leaked report, players could leave the NBA’s “campus” but faced a 10-day quarantine upon their return and had to have two negative coronavirus tests.
Carmelo Anthony voiced the concern of a lot of players when he told Ernie Johnson of TNT, “I’m still up in the air a little bit because I really don’t, we don’t have all the details. We don’t know a lot of information, so until we have that, it’s hard to just commit to that 100%.”
The concerns of some players are bigger than just a lack of information, there are worries about how this impacts the Black Lives Matter movement and momentum it has gained in recent weeks, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.
The complaint, privately expressed by multiple players, is that every player’s voice wasn’t heard for this critical and potentially life-changing vote, sources said.
The unease about relocating to a quarantined campus during the COVID-19 pandemic was already viewed as hazardous and unnecessary to many players. But because of the George Floyd tragedy and the powerful movement for racial justice that’s sweeping the nation, some players believe it’s bad optics for a league comprised predominantly of black men to be sequestered in one location for up to three months merely to entertain the masses and ease the league’s economic burden, sources said.
Damian Lillard explained the concerns well in a story at GQ speaking to Michael Pina.
On whether the NBA season will/should continue (for a variety of reasons), here are some of Lillard’s thoughts: https://t.co/qlPRMgsan3 pic.twitter.com/DoM4NW0f3k
— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) June 12, 2020
There also are anxieties its hard for rank and file players to speak out when Chris Paul and LeBron James are leading star players pushing for a restart.
There are big names asking the hard questions, too — Kyrie Irving is helping organize a zoom call on Friday night among players concerned about the plan and wanting a new NBA vote on the process, reports Tayler Rooks of Bleacher Report.
MORE: I've spoken to multiple players, about 5 days ago there was a zoom call of about 50 players discussing what they can do to take a stand. They are planning another call tonight with about 150 players to solidify what that stand is and stress this only works if they unify. https://t.co/FsklmAiD1I
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 12, 2020
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have said players do not have to report to Orlando and will not be punished for their choice.
However, players who don’t play will not be paid. It’s the financial aspect that probably will bring the majority of players to the ESPN Wild World of Sports complex in Orlando to restart the season. NBA players as a whole had about $645 million in unpaid salary when the season was suspended (players are only paid during the regular season, not the playoffs), and this return with its 88 seeding/regular-season games would return about $300 million of that, according to reports.
Players have a lot of legitimate questions right now about the return, the health and safety protocols for this plan, it’s fairness, and whether the optics of Black players taking the court right now is the right look. Players are being asked to take a risk with their health — one owners are not assuming, they are not going to be in the bubble — and legitimately want answers. Some are understandably opposed, or at least want more of a voice in the process.
The NBA is big business for owners and players, and this restart plan was chosen in large part because it makes the most money for everyone. The almighty dollar tends to win arguments around the NBA.
But the debate around this restart is far from over.