Sources: NBA, Players Expected To Find Common Ground For Restart
The NBA and its players "have issues to resolve" concerning the desire to continue speaking out about social and racial issues, but it is expected that the two sides will "find common ground and play the season," according to sources cited by Medina & Zillgitt of USA TODAY (6/16). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed player concerns about returning, saying the league "worked through all of those issues in terms of health and safety, what the environment will be like on the campus, but I can only say it may not be for everyone." Silver, appearing yesterday on "The Return of Sports" special on ESPN, said, "It will entail enormous sacrifice on behalf of those players and for everyone involved: the coaches, the referees. It's not an ideal situation." He added, "As we work through those issues, I can understand how some players may feel that it's not for them." Silver said his "sense is we're going to be able to work through most of those issues over the next few weeks, but we also have an arrangement with the players association where if a player chooses not to come, it's not a breach of his contract" ("The Return of Sports," ESPN, 6/15).
CONCERNS TO WORK OUT: ESPN.com's Wojnarowski & Andrews cited sources as saying that as a "growing faction of NBA players remains uncertain about committing to the league's plan for restarting the season in an Orlando bubble environment, a coalition of players" including Nets G Kyrie Irving and Lakers G Avery Bradley "believes it has a responsibility to take on a leading role in exploring answers and solutions for fellow players." Sources said that Irving, Bradley and the coalition of players "want to pursue some concerns further with the league," including the "investment of resources and ideas of all league constituencies -- from the commissioner's office, ownership level, management and the players' association -- in social justice reform." Sources said that among the coalition's concerns are a "surge in positive coronavirus cases in Florida, conditions surrounding the restrictive environment in the bubble, insurance and liabilities for players based on possible illnesses, and injuries in a truncated finish to the season." Meanwhile, sources said that Irving and Bradley were "among the organizers" of a call yesterday that included 40 players and a Friday call that included "closer to 100." Yesterday's call reportedly "included 1968 U.S. bronze medalist John Carlos sharing his perspective on social justice then and now" (ESPN.com, 6/15).
TWO ISSUES TO DEAL WITH: Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard said a return to playing would be great "because it will be us getting back to somewhat normal" amid the pandemic. However, he admitted the ongoing social protests is "where a lot of the struggle is for a lot of athletes." He said, "Our league is made up of so many African-Americans, a majority African-American players, and a lot of our hearts are with our people. Our minds are with our people, and we feel like we should be a part of that. We should be a part of that fight” ("The Return of Sports," ESPN, 6/15).
MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes there is an idea that the NBA returning to action "will somehow divert attention from the big societal issues." But "to this eye, the likes of Irving" and Lakers C Dwight Howard "have it backwards." NBA players, if they return to work as planned on July 30, are "poised to command an unprecedented platform." NBA games, once they are on, "will be widely watched." That means players who are "passionate about getting across a message of social justice" will be heard (TORONTO STAR, 6/16). In Pittsburgh, Mark Madden wrote the cultural impact of NBA players "lessens if they're not playing basketball." Madden: "I'm not telling anyone to shut up and dribble. I'm suggesting the opposite. Dribble, but don't shut up. Speak loud, and often. Use your platform as an NBA player to fight the fight" (TRIBLIVE.com, 6/15). ESPN's Mina Kimes said, "Reasonable minds can disagree about the best platform for protests." But she added, "What’s irrefutable is if we had had basketball over the last few weeks, we would have spent a lot more time talking about that than we have … talking about player activism" ("Around the Horn," ESPN, 6/15).
SINCERE CAUSE: Kings Owner & Chair Vivek Ranadive noted NBA players “really do care about those issues” of social injustice. He said, "From our perspective, they’ve always known that it’s bigger than basketball and they’re going to use this platform to make the world better” ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 6/15).