Fans might be ecstatic that the NBA is finally due to come back next month, but many of the dudes slated to literally risk their lives for the league are understandably not quite as thrilled.
The eight teams outside spitting distance of a playoff spot won’t be going to Orlando, but that doesn’t mean that every team that has much of a shot at a championship. If you’re on the 30-35 Magic, currently slated to take on the 53-12 Bucks in the opening round, you know your chances of taking home a championship are slim to none.
Without a lot to play for, many players are understandably reticent to spend seven weeks away from their families while increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19. Because no matter how many safeguards the league puts in place — safeguards that add to the stress of being a professional athlete — canceling the rest of the season would always be the safer move.
Underlying these material concerns about safety and the unpleasantries of life in the bubble are procedural concerns. The NBA owners approved the plan, sending it to the players’ union’s nine-member executive committee and player representatives from each team, 39 players out of the 450 active players in the league.
Those players also approved the plan, but Yahoo Sports reports that many of their peers are unhappy that they didn’t get a say in the decision. The protests following the death of George Floyd are another sticking point for what has in recent years been the most socially active group of professional athletes in the country.
“What message are we sending by agreeing to this during this time?” a black player told Yahoo Sports. “We’re out here marching and protesting, and yet we all leave our families in these scary times and gather to perform at a place where the owners won’t be at? What type of sense does that make? We’ll be going backwards. That place isn’t that magical.”
The optics of a majority-black league returning to play games that might distract from the causes they support are yet another reason that, despite the momentum the league has toward a return, a sizeable number of players are not convinced.