You might want to hold off on booking a plane ticket to Orlando in late July. Of course, you should avoid unnecessary travel anywhere on account of coronavirus, but in this specific case it’s also because of some tension regarding the NBA’s proposal to resume the season at Disney World in the summer.
Yahoo Sources: Significant number of players disappointed their voice wasn’t heard in decision to restart season, and others believe black players sequestered to entertain and ease league’s economic burden amid racial tension is bad optics. https://t.co/F4BiqWD6uQ pic.twitter.com/hhw8rGdLh8— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 12, 2020
At present, the league’s return is scheduled to start on July 30th. But while the league might be preparing for the logistical nightmare that is recreating a pro sports league in a single location, the players who actually comprise the league’s actual product (you know, the dudes that play the basketball) have some reservations. Former Buck Malcolm Brogdon laid out the dynamics on a podcast on Thursday with Pelicans guard (and another former Buck) JJ Redick. There are two major issues fueling players’ doubts about the league’s return to play.
- COVID-19 is very much still a threat that requires everyone’s discipline and sacrifice while research continues. Cases in states that have insisted on “reopening” after the initial shutdown have experienced a significant spike, and while Florida isn’t on the list it’s not hard to believe that things are worse than they’re being reported.
- The United States is still rocked by unrest and tension stemming from protesting of police brutality and systemic racism, largely focused on people of color. The argument being made is that returning to play basketball will allow huge swaths of people to refocus their attention on something that isn’t pushing for change and reform. An additional factor is that there is a distinctly unsettling impression given by a league largely (but not exclusively) comprised of young black men gathering in one place to provide entertainment to a country largely (but certainly not exclusively) comprised of white people.
One respected NBA player tells me: “Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to ‘who did what’ in the game last night. It’s a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that to impact what’s happening in our communities.”— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2020
At this time, it is not known whether any members of the Milwaukee Bucks were involved on the call on Friday night.
Full details on @TheAthleticNBA: Kyrie Irving leads call discussing a stand for social injustice by sitting out — with powerful moments from Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard: https://t.co/0ToMiZOKjl— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
As I mentioned on Twitter, there is a major risk of the messenger and the message getting twisted around in the minds of more than a few people. Kyrie Irving is no stranger to controversy in NBA circles, but this is simply different. I would encourage everyone who has a negative association with Kyrie to ignore his name and replace with someone like Khris Middleton or Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then see how you feel about things.
And because this is real life, there are innumerable other considerations to make, including the financial implications of the season not finishing as expected. As reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Players are already losing an estimated $300 million in salary, and terminating the rest of the season would cost another 25% of salary with owners exercising the force majeure provision. That’s on top of losing an additional 10% held in escrow that would be lost to the league, too. NBA players would stand to lose $1.2 billion in salary this season.
There exist larger fears for next season. The NBA has the ability to terminate the collective bargaining agreement that already includes a mutual opt-out in 2022-23. Already, the NBA and NBPA have to negotiate a long list of financial and competitive items to account for the loss of revenue, but agents expect that the league would react to the cancellation of this season by blowing up the CBA, locking out the players and moving to implement a more unfavorable financial share of basketball-related income, which is now essentially a 50-50 split.
Obviously, there’s a ton to this story that we just don’t know, but it’s worth monitoring if you were hoping that basketball would return, and that the Milwaukee Bucks would get their chance to claim their first title in nearly 50 years. As always, stay tuned...