Reports from ESPN this week raised awareness of concerns that a number of players were having with the league’s proposed “bubble” living conditions and the symbolism of returning to the court while the nation faces both a global pandemic and a growing movement for racial justice in America.
A movement that has led to protests in all 50 states and countries around the world.
In the midst of all of that, it would be reasonable, at the very least, to have a conversation about that before the league moved up the proposed start date of the season from July 31 to July 30.
From a report by ESPN Senior NBA Insider, Adrian Wojnarowski:
“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 and impact what’s happening in our communities,” one widely respected NBA player told ESPN. “We are asking ourselves, ‘Where and how can we make the biggest impact?’ Mental health is part of the discussion too, and how we handle all of that in a bubble.”
So, Friday’s announcement that players, including Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard, were talking among themselves about not playing shouldn’t have come as a shock.
Irving isn’t some rogue trouble-maker, though many are trying to paint that picture. He is a union vice-president, one of six on the NBPA executive committee.
Over the past five days, so much has changed in America.
Is it not conceivable that a person could take in information over the course of a week and think maybe, just maybe, there are things that we should all be focused on that are more important than our entertainment?
There are dramatic financial implications should players decide to sit out the remainder of the season, including the possibility of breaking the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is expected to be mutually re-opened after the 2022-23 season.
NBA owners would surely attempt to roll back player salaries as much as possible, citing their “losses” from this season and potential recurring financial setbacks in the future.
That would be a steep price to pay. No one should consider it lightly.
Besides the risks to health related to COVID-19, and their finances, players like Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, have also spoken up about the increased possibility of injury due to resuming play after such a long layoff and with such a short recovery period between this season and next.
If the season does resume on July 30, some players would participate in more than 150 games by the end of the 2021 calendar year; a schedule that could shorten careers due to wear and tear.
Any one of those alone would be valid concerns on their own. When you put them all together and the only sensible conclusion one can reach is to cancel the rest of this season.
I had already staked out this position once it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t ending anytime soon — and it hasn’t, regardless of what the behavior of many would indicate.
But now, there is too much at stake for anything to distract the eyes of the country from taking a deep look at itself and figure out how to destroy structural racism.
There shouldn’t be any patience left. No tolerance. Not for racism or police brutality.
Consistently, throughout American history, it has been Black athletes who have helped lead the movement for human rights for all of its citizens.
There is no moment greater than this one.
Some things matter more than the game.
Some things matter more than entertainment.
Some things matter more than money.
If you’ve been paying attention this past week, or maybe for the past 400 years, you know what they are.