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NBA fights to maintain season amid pandemic

FRI. | 9-18-20 | SPORTS

     Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020 is known as the day sports stopped. NCAA’s March Madness was cancelled, the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS seasons were postponed and high school sports, depending on state regulations, were called off. Each organization that was postponed scrambled to create a plan to resume the season. Most leagues opted to remove fans from the stadiums and enforce social distancing guidelines for their players, but the NBA went a step further. On Jun. 4, the NBA announced that they would be creating their own quarantine environment and executives approved their plan to continue their season. This plan would require the players, coaches and team personnel from the top twenty-two NBA teams to move away from their families and stay in a quarantined environment at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando,

Florida. This plan has since been dubbed “The Bubble” due to its safe, enclosed facilities.

     The Bubble has been a massive success considering basketball is being played in a safe manner. Since the season’s resumption, not a single person in the Bubble has tested positive for COVID-19. This is due to the strict regulations such as required face masks when off the court and social distancing guidelines enforced by high-tech wristbands. These wristbands keep track of everyone a person comes into contact with and alert people when they are within six feet of each other. The NBA has spent nearly $180 million dollars on the bubble which may seem expensive, however, without the bubble the NBA playoffs wouldn’t happen which would cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars. The NBA finals series alone last season brought in $288 million in ad revenue. For the NBA, the creation of the bubble was absolutely necessary in order to avoid losing money. 

     Many players and teams were prompted to join in on this ambitious endeavor with the promise that they would be able to spotlight their beliefs on racial issues. Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, NBA players threatened to boycott games and sit out for the remainder of the season. All games were put on hold due to a domino effect started by the Milwaukee Bucks players and coaching staff  announcing that they wouldn’t be playing in their Aug. 27th game against the Orlando Magic. League-wide meetings were held in which players were asked to share their thoughts on the shooting and how to handle playing games going forward. After deliberation, players and the NBA as a whole decided that the remainder of the season would be played.  Though a full season boycott didn’t happen, much attention was still brought to the Jacob Blake shooting due to NBA players taking a firm, immediate stand.

     NBA players and coaches have been given the chance to use their platform to speak out against racism and support social justice movements such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Players are allowed to wear a social justice message of their choice on the back of their jersey for  the remainder of  the season. The NBA approved list of phrases includes: Black Lives Matter, Vote, Justice and I Can't Breathe just to name a few. In addition to adding phrases to their jerseys, most NBA players and coaches have decided to kneel during the anthem as a show of support for social justice. There are, however, some exceptions to this show of solidarity. Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac decided to take off his BLM warm up shirt and stand for  the National Anthem. He was joined by Miami Heat Center Meyers Leonard and San Antonio Spurs coaches Becky Hammond and Greg Popovich. This kneeling began with Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, in 2016 on the sidelines prior to a preseason game. Ever since then people have been divided over his gesture. While I feel that peaceful protest is important and often needed in our society, many believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is a display of disrespect towards our country and armed services. 

     “Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn’t go hand in hand with supporting Black lives. … I don’t think kneeling or putting on a T-shirt for me personally is the answer,” Isaac said in an article with The Washington Post. 

     Isaac is the only Black NBA player who has decided to stand during the anthem. Prior to this season, NBA players and coaches were required to stand during the anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has ended this long standing rule in an effort to show the NBA is embracing change. 

     The NBA has accomplished more than they ever could’ve hoped for in this 2020 season. High-quality playoff basketball is being played and players are standing for what they believe in on a national platform. The NBA is making steps toward a reputation as a progressive organization that is open to change and social justice reform. 

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