As coronavirus lockdowns continue to lift around the country, one of the biggest challenges has been figuring out how to resume live sporting events. The NBA and NHL were in the midst of their seasons when play was stopped in March, while the NFL and major league baseball were in their off-seasons.
The NBA has been the first league to formulate a definitive timetable for a return, as the major league baseball continues to squabble over money. The NBA is scheduled to return to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Disney complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30. Their COVID-19 protocol includes no spectators and keeping players sequestered in the massive complex.
However, in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abery and Breonna Taylor players are debating whether or not they should return given the climate. One of the players advocating for the NBA to sit out the remainder of the season is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.
Multiple reports also suggested that Irving said players should form a new league which made headlines, but other players presumably on the call, including his Nets teammates Theo Pinson and Caris Levert, refuted that on social media.
Irving is the vice president of the NBA Player’s Association. Though he’s injured this season and is not expected to return, Irving has been the spokesman for the players who want to use their platform for social justice and think a return is premature.
According to ESPN, Irving and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley organized a coalition of players who had concerns about the limitations imposed by coronavirus protocol as well as the league taking attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s on one of these calls or in a group chat that Irving supposedly made the suggestion.
Forbes reported that Irving said he was willing to give up “everything” for social justice reform.
“I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as Black men every day we wake up,” he reportedly said.
Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard who was on those calls told ESPN, in a report that included NBA commissioner Adam Silver, that Irving made some good points about the concern players have throughout the league.
The NBA proposes that 22 teams return to play on July 30.
They will play the remainder of the regular season with a 113-page rulebook that details strict social distancing protocols in place including limiting fiddling with mouth guards, no fist bumps or slaps on the butt and maintaining six feet of distance from each other when not playing. If they play cards with each other, they must wear face masks and throw out the deck after a game.
Players who leave campus will have to quarantine for 10 days afterward and there is an anonymous tip line for anyone to report offenders. Spectators will not be allowed at games but team personnel will have to adhere to the guidelines as well. Local workers for the complex will be allowed to travel back and forth.
Major league soccer is also slated to return on July 8 and will live and play the same complex under their own coronavirus protocols.
Florida, it should be noted, has been spiking in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, it reported 2783 new cases, a record, reports the New York Times.
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