NBA fans rejoiced earlier this month when commissioner Adam Silver announced the league’s plans to resume the 2020 season.
The announcement included a timeline detailing specific permitted actions to ensure safety and schedule the remainder of the 2020-21 season at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando.
By July 1, teams must submit their 37-person travel list to prepare for their July 7 arrival to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. From there, training camps will take place until July 29 with competition resuming July 30.
Advancements to the plan come daily, like the availability of smart rings players can wear to track coronavirus symptoms, to ensure safety for all parties involved.
Since the announcement was made on June 4, fans have been counting down the days until they get to watch LeBron outlet a pass to Anthony Davis and for James Harden to flaunt his handles.
But just as they were anxious when the league first suspended in March, fans are worried they might not get to watch their favorite players finish the season.
Though an article published on NBA.com revealed that an “overwhelming” amount of players supported safely resuming the season, many have publicly voiced their concerns and frustrations with the new plan.
Most notably, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has taken a stance against resuming the 2019-20 season. Irving — though recovering from a shoulder injury in March that will likely prevent him from playing anyway — stands against resuming play in favor of maintaining focus on social justice reforms.
Irving led a Zoom call two weeks ago with 80 other players, including Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, to discuss his opinions amid the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police officers.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving said according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls***. Something smells a little fishy.”
Irving also said in the call that he’s willing to make sacrifices for social reform. Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley teamed with Irving to head a coalition of players demanding social activism from the NBA. Bradley revealed Tuesday night that he will not be playing in Orlando citing family reasons. His 6-year old son — who struggles to recover from respiratory illnesses — would likely be unable to enter the NBA bubble.
“We don’t need to say more,” Bradley said via ESPN. “We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put into the works.”
Bradley, Irving and the coalition addressed the NBA’s role in this moment of history, calling for an increase in Black executives, including front office positions and head coaches, donations to Black communities and partnerships with black-owned businesses.
Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers voiced his opinions regarding Irving’s and Bradley’s comments.
“I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement … I’m with it … but in the right way [and] not at the cost of the whole NBA [and] players careers,” Rivers commented on an Instagram post. “We can do both. We can play [and] we can help change the way black lives are lived.”
Bradley acknowledged that playing in Orlando would present a large platform for players to donate to their communities and protest before games, but said this is no longer adequate.
“The actual act of sitting out doesn’t directly fight systemic racism,” Bradley said. “But it does highlight the reality that without black athletes, the NBA wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Similar to Bradley, a cohort of players remain doubtful about returning to play due to concerns about COVID-19.
Memphis Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow posted an Instagram story stating that the return was “All about the Benjamins,” and that he is “not sure if they really care if [players] get corona.”
The isolation bubble the league is implementing in Orlando is an additional aversion for players. The bubble will be unlike anything players have previously experienced, with no visitors allowed until mid-August and a 10-day quarantine upon their return to the Disney grounds if they leave.
Other players not playing include Portland Trail Blazer Trevor Ariza and Washington Wizard Davis Bertans.
Ariza is sitting out in order to spend time with his son after fighting a years long custody battle.
Bertans is opting not to play in order to remain healthy before entering free agency. He has torn his ACL twice in the past and is coming off his most productive season yet, averaging 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Regardless if players choose to sit out for social justice, health and injury concerns or the intense restrictions on their freedom, they must be prepared to sacrifice pay cuts.
Portland guard CJ McCollum voiced the financial burdens on the call with Irving and Bradley, according to Charania.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that players have already lost roughly $300 million in salary and canceling the season would cause even greater financial stress. The NBA would be able to implement the force majeure clause of the collective bargaining agreement and would likely restructure the distribution of revenue for future seasons.
The original date players had to report if they would be playing in Orlando was June 24, but teams are largely treating July 1 — when rosters must be submitted to the league — as the cut off date to enter the bubble.