Just more than a week ago, National Basketball Players’ Association representatives voted 28-0 to back the concept of the NBA restart plan with 22 teams and to have further negotiations.
That did not speak for all the rank-and-file NBA players, many of whom have serious concerns about the restart plan, such as the impact of a restart on the Black Lives Matter/social justice movements, the injury and health risks, and freedom of movement within the bubble itself. Led by Kyrie Irving (and with other name players such as Dwight Howard and CJ McCollum in their corner), about 80 of those players expressed those issues on a call Friday night.
The NBA and players’ union are still negotiating the restart, and Lakers’ player rep Danny Green described it all as “very up in the air right now.” Green spoke with Mark Medina of the USA Today about all this and the NBA restart in Orlando did not sound as solid as the league has made it seem.
“It’s very up in the air right now. There are still a lot of moving parts. We’re trying to figure that out. We have 80 percent knowledge of how Orlando is going to be. There are still moving parts to figure out, which teams are going to stay where, how they’re going to do it and how they’re operating in the bubble. Right now, the bubble doesn’t seem as effective as they would like or as lenient as we would like. We’ll have to figure it out.”
While there are legitimate concerns about the social justice implications of a return to play, as there are concerns about injuries and health, players are telling the union they are more about life in the bubble and how confining it will be, Green said.
“The biggest concern is for most teams is hotels, who is staying where, the space, friends and family visiting, seeing how they are going to quarantine them, if we’re going to be quarantined and for how long if we leave the bubble. How often testing is going to be?”
The NBA acknowledged these issues in a statement to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
“We understand the players’ concerns and are working with the Players Association on finding the right balance to address them."
— NBA spokesman Mike Bass on worries players have raised about diverting attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement by resuming the season
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 14, 2020
It’s having family, friends, and visitors come into the bubble is one of the biggest issues, Green said. The NBA restart proposal calls for no visitors until after the first round of the playoffs, which would be about 53 days after players arrived in Orlando. At that point, 14 of the 22 teams would be out of the postseason and home, meaning only eight teams would ultimately have friends and family allowed on the “campus” the NBA is creating.
Of course, money plays into the players’ decisions as well. Players do not have to report to Orlando and will not be punished if they stay home, but they also will not be paid for that time.
For each player this is a personal decision — how much health risk are they willing to take on to play, how do they think this will impact Black Lives Matter — but the parameters of what the restart will look like are still being set. Everything is in pencil, nothing is in pen.