NBA Players Pump the Brakes on Resuming Play, Citing Virus and BLM Protests

Sports fans in America are in a bit of a drought at the moment, with only a few select sports leagues having resumed thus far…none of them being staples of the USA’s sporting experience.

The first to come back online was the German Bundesliga, followed just weeks later by the KBO; the Korean Baseball Organization.

Stateside, only NASCAR has made what could be considered a full-throated return, even it is with still sans fans.

The NBA has been floating plans to return to action via a quasi-quarantined, abbreviated season beginning in Orlando at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports – but not everyone is ready to get back into the swing of things.

Players have expressed multiple concerns, ranging from visitor policies to Disney staff protocols to Florida’s record levels of new COVID-19 cases. But the main issue for some is that a return to play would distract from the nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism.

  • Kyrie Irving hosted a Zoom meeting on Friday with over 80 players to discuss the matter. “I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform],” he reportedly said on the call.

  • “Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to ‘who did what’ in the game last night,” one anonymous player told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

But there did appear to be room for some compromise.

While some believe playing basketball would detract from the Black Lives Matter movement, others — including LeBron James — believe it would provide them with a megaphone to promote their message.

  • “[LeBron] wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time,” writes The Athletic’s Sam Amick, citing sources close to James (subscription).
  • “We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived,” Rockets guard Austin Rivers wrote on Instagram. “But canceling or boycotting [a] return doesn’t do that in my opinion.”

This debate is likely to continue for some time, as Americans find themselves ever more engaged with the national dialogue outside of sports.