For the last day, most media discussions related to the NBA have been consumed with a group of players — including several members of the Lakers — who are concerned about continuing the 2019-20 season because they feel their efforts would be better served by continuing to combat systemic racism and fight for social justice.
But whatever one thinks of that position, it’s also clearly not the only issue that players have voiced with the NBA’s return-to-play plan. Danny Green — who is the Lakers’ National Basketball Players Association representative during these discussions — shared the concerns he’s heard from players around the league with Mark Medina of USA Today.
And while Green acknowledged in his discussion with Medina that if the league was going to halt, it “would be because of the movement with social justice,” he also admitted that players have other issues with the so-called “bubble” the NBA is proposing in its return scenarios:
What are the main concerns about the bubble?
Green: ”The biggest concern is for most teams is hotels, who is staying where, the space, friends and family visiting, seeing how they are going to quarantine them, if we’re going to be quarantined and for how long if we leave the bubble. How often testing is going to be?”
What feedback have you been given?
Green: ”Testing is going to be often. There are so many moving parts. There’s nothing that’s set and going to be established, except there is going to be a bubble and there will be 22 teams and allow visitors to come after the first round of the playoffs. That’s all the things you’ve read, heard or seen. It’s out there, and it’s all we know. We’re trying to figure it out.”
So they haven’t indicated how much flexibility there is with leaving the bubble?
Green: ”No, not yet. The biggest thing is trying to figure it out the number of family, friends and visitors.”
Before anyone pillories Green for voicing this viewpoint, for one, he’s just passing along what he’s heard from players, and we should appreciate his honesty as a window into this process. Secondly, Green can’t be accused of not caring about these issues. He’s one of the only Lakers to be seen actually joining the protests sweeping the United States right now, and is clearly someone who cares about social justice.
It’s also important to note that Green wasn’t on the call on Friday night — organized by Kyrie Irving and Green’s Lakers teammate, Avery Bradley — in which players voiced their dissent with the league’s plan to play during this current moment in our country. Still, he’s also not the first player to express hesitancy about the bubble restrictions the NBA would be imposing in its current resumption scenario. He’s not even the first Laker to do so.
Lakers center JaVale McGee called the restrictions the NBA was proposing “slightly concerning” during an interview last week, while third-year wing Kyle Kuzma said in a separate discussion that “you just see more and more things are opening, more and more people are coming together. And for us to be in a bubble, that’s kinda weird.” Players clearly aren’t thrilled with the idea of being restricted to Disney World without their families and friends in a state (Florida) that is very much not locked down, and where other employees might not be subject to the same restrictions.
And all of that’s to say nothing of the subliminal implications of a league in which the majority of players are black — and the majority of team ownership is white — being restricted to one area for the country’s entertainment during a moment in which systemic injustice is such a central discussion point. Given that it’s at a luxury resort, it’s not quite the “incarceration” that union head Michele Roberts compared it to, but it’s also potentially not a great look for the league in this moment, especially if other employees may have free reign to come and go.
And whether one agrees with all of those perspectives or not isn’t really important, because it’s clear that the players see those things as issues, and their views are functionally the only things that matter here, since it will be their decision on whether to play or not. But with that said, right now coronavirus cases are spiking in the exact area where the NBA is proposing this re-start, and the most vulnerable members of its organization are saying they don’t want to be limited from participation. There are genuine safety concerns here, in addition to the multitude of other issues.
All of this is not to say that players shouldn’t feel the way they feel. I can’t speak for them. But what we do know is that if the players want to negotiate for less restrictions, it is potentially making this plan to return less safe. There are benefits and costs to every change to the plan here, and the NBPA and the league will have to weigh all of those factors as they try to figure out the best path forward... or if the league will, or should, even move forward at all.