Why Tons of NBA Players Are Worried About the Plan to Restart the Season

A rogue coalition of players has some difficult but understandable questions for the league.

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The NBA is trying to work out its internal issues, and it would seem, they have some explaining to do.

League ownership and the player representatives may have overwhelmingly approved the plan for 22 teams to resume play in Orlando on July 31 with eight regular-season games followed by the playoffs, but plenty of the rank-and-file are not satisfied. They’re organizing, and they’ve got questions.

A new coalition of players released a statement to ESPN that directly raises many of the concerns these players have. It’s led by Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets and Avery Bradley of the Los Angeles Lakers, each feeling a responsibility to speak up for their peers who fear retribution if they voice their concerns. The pair has helped organize conference calls with 140 total players that also included WNBA players, members of the entertainment industry, and John Carlos, 1968 U.S. bronze medalist and the guy on the right in this photo.

It’s in the league’s interest to assuage the concerns of these players before team practices begin. Here, broadly, are the questions it will need to answer.

How Will the NBA Support Social Justice Movements?

Given the uprising against police brutality and racism that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, many players are worried that NBA basketball could be a distraction that detracts from the movement. Others have said that the attention and salaries the league’s majority-black players receive when they’re actually playing could actually be a useful tool in drawing attention to these issues.

The latter view does sound a bit like magical thinking, so the coalition wants a concrete plan for how the league will invest its resources in social justice reform, with input and commitments from all stakeholders — the commissioner’s office, owners, management, and players.

“We will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse,” its statement read.

How Will the NBA Protect Its Players?

There’s been a surge in positive coronavirus cases in Florida after a hasty reopening, which doesn’t exactly make Orlando an enviable destination. And even if there wasn’t, playing is inherently riskier than not playing. It’s only fair that the league outline how it plans to ensure player safety in the “bubble.”

Or as the coalition’s statement put it, “We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being.”

What Happens If and When an NBA Player Contracts the Coronavirus in Orlando?

The ESPN report also mentioned that the players haven’t received all the details about the insurance and liability protections the league is putting into place. We already know that play will not be suspended if a player tests positive, but we don’t know how much responsibility the league will take for medical bills and long-term ill health effects of a player getting COVID-19 in Orlando.

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