The NBA has made it’s plans to return on July 30th to resume the 2019-20 season. But, not so fast? Among a resurgence of Covid-19 cases and social unrest in the country, an opposition to the restart has emerged, led by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving believes that “black players sequestered to entertain and ease the leagues economic burden amid racial tensions is bad optics.” He feels players should be focused more on the Black Lives Matter movement and the social unrest in the country rather than playing basketball. His thought is that playing in Orlando will distract from the movement and cause support for it to wane.
Approximately 50 players took part in the 1st phone call about a week go, and though about 200 were suspected to take part in the second one this past weekend, only about 80 did. Among those who took part were Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mason Plumlee, Zach Collins, Andre Iguodala, Garrett Temple, and Rudy Gay, as well as several WNBA Players.
Dwight Howard was one of the most verbal defenders of Kyrie Irving’s opposition, stating on twitter that we don’t need basketball right now, and that as much as he would like to win his first championship, unity for his people would be it’s own championship.
Carmelo Anthony has said he is undecided.
Lou Williams also agrees with Kyrie Irving.
On the other side of the equation many star players still want to return to play in Orlando, and aren’t happy with Irving’s dissent. Lebron James has said he will play and that playing in Orlando will not effect his push for social change. Austin Rivers, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook are among those not convinced by Irving.
Clippers Guard Patrick Beverly stated boldly that Irving’s opposition won’t matter in the end. If Lebron James plays everyone will play.
Irving has come under attack for his opposition to the league restarting, as he won’t even be playing or in fact going to Orlando for the remainder of the season should it still happen. He had season ending shoulder surgery in March.
Many players are pointing out that playing in Orlando can provide them a platform to push social change, and bring the issues to an attention at the next level. That the benefits of going in that respect out way those of not.
It is yet to be seen if Irving has enough clout or support to fully oppose the restart of the 2019-20 season, and cause enough players to sit out, but his support for opposition is rising.
One idea to come out of it so far is some younger players including Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum are asking for insurance policies before they go to Orlando to ensure they are covered financially should they get injured or become infected with Covid-19. Many of these players are towards the end of their contracts and expecting extensions, something that would be in jeopardy if they are hurt in Orlando.
If all or enough of the players opt out of playing in Orlando and the NBA is forced to scrap the restart, it could have wide implications. Team owners would then be forced to use the force Majeure clause, opening up the CBA to restructure it. Players would have little leverage because of the economic impact on team owners. There would surely be a lockout for 2020-2021 season as players and owners try to come two terms in a likely bitter battle. Not to mention the loss in income and revenue. Players would lose $1.2 billion (a 35% reduction) in income while the NBA would lose $2 billion in revenue. The losses would be devastating to both the league and the players.
So, the restart is happening. For now.