NBA will not require hesitant players to restart the season

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images /

The NBA will not require hesitant players to restart the 2019-20 season.

During this unparalleled time of both public health concerns and civil unrest in the United States, the NBA‘s plan to restart the 2019-20 season at the end of July seems trivial by comparison.

It’s not surprising, then, that although the league has voted to resume the season in a bubble in Orlando, and although many prominent NBA stars voiced their desire to finish out the season a few weeks back, not everyone involved has been so keen to jump back into basketball.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, while the NBA and National Basketball Players Association were finalizing their return-to-play plans today, a faction of 40-50 players discussed whether restarting the season was a good idea on a conference call. There has been no formal petition to opt out of the league’s planned 22-team restart, however.

Per Woj, the NBA and NBPA are expected to agree on a provision that will not require players to help restart the season or subject them to any punishment for staying home. However, any player that chooses to remain at home will lose his salary for those games missed.

Among the issues the two sides have been hammering out, Wojnarowski mentioned family situations, the inability to leave the Walt Disney Resort campus (which would require a 10-day quarantine upon re-entering the bubble), obvious concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, social justice and more.

So what can we glean from this latest bit of NBA news?

For starters, commissioner Adam Silver is doing the right thing by allowing anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable — both from a health perspective during this pandemic and with more important societal issues than basketball to contend with in America right now — to stay home.

However, it’s naive to assume this opt-out clause is really giving the players much freedom to make their own decision unless they decide to band together and take a firm, united stance. The sheer amount of peer pressure to resume the season and help everyone involved get paid, not to mention the public scrutiny a player would face were he to miss the playoffs in a time where people at home are starved for entertainment, makes it hard to imagine a scenario where the league is divided between players wanting to restart the season and others preferring to stay at home.

If anything, this opt-out provision seems designed to ensure the league is less liable in the event someone gets the coronavirus or — God forbid — dies from it in Orlando.

The question is how strong that opposition is among the players right now and whether it amounts to a serious problem for the league’s plans in the coming days. Health concerns aside, the normally welcome escape basketball provides doesn’t seem like the most prudent thing for a populace that needs to see what’s going on in this country right now — an opinion several NBA players have already voiced:

For now, we’ll have to wait for more details on this story as it develops.

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