NBA Return-To-Play Plan Running Into Player Resistance

The NBA Players Association voted over a week ago to approve Adam Silver’s plan to finish the 2019-2020 season in an Orlando “Disney World Bubble,” which is to begin with an 8-game regular season at the end of July.

Prior to the vote, many big named superstars like LeBron James, NBA Players Association President Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Anthony David, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook vocalized their desire to return. Obviously, those are some powerful names and voices. Now, it appears, many players were reluctant to speak out against these powerful league voices, though they had concerns the entire time.

According to The Athletic, “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.”

This was further expanded upon when a group of over 80 players joined a phone call Friday night June 12th led by Kyrie Irving. The call discussed finding unified way to take up the cause amid the nationwide unrest stemming from racial injustice, systematic racism and police brutality, all while the world continues to face the coronavirus pandemic. Some players don’t feel safe returning to close contact during the pandemic, others feel the league’s quarantine bubble is too restrictive while others feel distracting the masses from the racial equality movement with NBA basketball would be counterproductive to what the movement is currently accomplishing. 

It appears that something that had been agreed upon is unraveling. The league is reportedly not requiring players to participate in the season restart if they are uncomfortable doing so. Players who voluntarily sit out would lose a portion of their salary, but would otherwise face no consequences. What we may be looking at is the potential of a league returning to complete its season, with some, if not many of their most notable players, missing from action. Talks will continue over the coming days, as the once solid situation has become more fluid.

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