Ben Simmons has repeatedly told the 76ers he isn’t mentally ready to play.
At a certain point, the team took that seriously as a mental-health issue. Philadelphia stopped fining him and offered every resource necessary. Simmons has reportedly worked with mental-health professionals from the players’ union.
But the 76ers have grown frustrated as they remain in the dark about his progress.
The Philadelphia 76ers fined All-Star guard Ben Simmons his $360,000 game salary for missing Thursday night’s victory over the Detroit Pistons and plan to continue fining him until he cooperates with team physicians on his mental health issues and fulfills other basketball-related obligations, sources told ESPN on Friday.
The Sixers will again place Simmons’ future salary into an escrow account, sources said. Earlier this season, the Sixers released Simmons’ money from escrow after he had been initially cooperative on a path toward returning to play.
Simmons has been showing up regularly at the team’s facility for some daily basketball activity with coaches and individual teammates, but the Sixers will begin fining him again for failures to participate in other requirements, such as strength training, film study and some presence at team practices and game-day shootarounds, sources said.
This is a complex issue in terms of medical ethics. What mental-health information should people owe an employer? What if they’re unable to perform their jobs? What if the mental issue preventing job performance is directly tied to the employer?
Players facing mental-health challenges should be supported. It’s also impossible to overlook that Simmons wanted to never play for the 76ers again and, for a time, achieved that without getting fined because he claimed mental-health issues.
The (union-ratified) Collective Bargaining Agreement requires players treated by non-team psychiatrists to provide information that may affect ability to play basketball:
A Player who consults or is treated by a physician (including a psychiatrist) or a professional providing non-mental health related medical services (e.g., chiropractor, physical therapist) other than a physician or other professional designated by the Team shall give notice of such consultation or treatment to the Team and shall provide the Team with all information it may request concerning any condition that in the judgment of the Team’s physician may affect the Player’s ability to play skilled basketball
A potential key question: Did Simmons meet with a psychiatrist – as opposed to a psychologist/other therapist – through the union? The CBA clause specifically says “non-mental health related medical services” by professionals other than physicians, indicating psychologists/other non-psychiatrist therapists would be exempt.
The stakes of the ongoing dispute are high.
The 76ers have apparently paid Simmons his previously withheld $8,250,984 paycheck minus approximately $2 million fines. But they could fine him an additional $360,305 per additional missed game plus more for other team events.
With a trade not looking imminent, the standoff continues as a back-and-forth of fines and other maneuvers.