Despite Skepticism, The NBA Bubble Is A Success Medically, Competitively, and On Social Issues

Courtesy: Global News

Editor's Note: As of August 26th, 2020, the Milwaukee Bucks took a stance to boycott their game 5 playoff game in respect of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin. The following piece was published on August 24th, 2020 before I knew any details of this senseless act as well. Following the Bucks' lead, the other teams scheduled to participate on August 26th's games have decided to boycott in the NBA as well as the WNBA. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds of the MLB have also decided to boycott their game on August 26th. The following article is meant to highlight the great strides the NBA has taken in combating the health crisis in this country as well as the racial injustice that we as Black people experience. I still support the restart of the NBA, and I also understand the optics and visibility a boycott at this point gives the cause at large. I commend all who chose to demonstrate in this way, and I hope to see continued strategic demonstration and tactics going forward.

Skeptical, that’s the word I would use to describe so many Black people’s feelings towards an NBA restart this year. Skepticism, that in one instance was warranted. On March 25th, 2020 the world stopped for all of the wrong reasons. George Floyd was killed by Minnesota police officers via having one officer kneel on his neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Police brutality once again was in the forefront of the news in the United States. We saw a response through peaceful protests that we haven’t seen in decades. Our people had enough. This all took place under the umbrella of quarantine in some states due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On March 11th, 2020 Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was reported to have contracted COVID-19. This came after a video of a press conference surfaced where Gobert made light of the virus by playfully touching the microphones present. It was certainly irony at its best. It was also effectively when the country realized that this pandemic would be a very real thing. Shortly after these developments the NBA suspended its season. 

It’s since that point that basketball on the grand stage took a backseat. 

The NBA stayed in the back of our minds during the protests and riots in response to George Floyd’s killing. Two weeks prior to Floyd’s killing, another unarmed Black person was awakened out of her sleep and was shot 8 times. Breonna Taylor was the victim of the no knock warrant law that exists in Louisville, Kentucky. Even though her murder happened before Floyd’s, it was brought to light nationally in the wake of Floyd’s murder. It serves as a microcosm of how Black women’s concerns continue to be minimized in this country.

With these two tragedies among so many others from the past being top of mind, the people in this country simply had enough. Activism was everywhere that you looked. Corporations made public stances in support of Black Lives Matter. These types of gestures were simply unprecedented. Never have corporations publicly stood with Black people and their plight. Even if it ultimately is lip service, the optics were never seen prior. With a new stream of consciousness in America, and with a bevy of White allies, we seemed to be primed for a civil rights movement renaissance.

All the while, as months of demonstrations progressed, the NBA was figuring out how they could return and guarantee safety for all of the parties involved. Bear in mind that the NBA season was suspended, but not cancelled. In the interest of fulfilling network contracts and the CBA with league owners, it seemed like a necessary evil that the league returned in some capacity. Many players in the league also felt conflicted.

They didn’t want to seem like they were part of an establishment that was going to be in the business of being silent on social issues.

In my own circle people had their doubts that sports returning would be a positive thing for social initiatives. I never had any doubts that this wouldn’t be a good thing. The NBA unlike most other leagues has usually stood behind its players on a multitude of social issues. The NBA allowed its players to wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in recognition of Eric Garner’s murder. The NBA stood with its players once it was public record that Donald Sterling was the racist that many had always believed him to be. He was forced to sell the L.A. Clippers franchise. 

The NBA in recent years has acted as an ally.

I would have more reservations with an NFL return than anything else.They seldom have been allies to battered women or any racial social causes. I didn’t understand why it seemed that players had so little faith that the league wouldn’t be amiable to the suggestions of its players.  The NBA and the NBPA agreed to create a way to produce television while still creating social justice content. This included allowing players to have social justice messages on the back of their jerseys, having “Black Lives Matter” showcased for every game at center court, and having the same phrase placed on t-shirts during warm-ups. TNT also produced a show a week before the restart called “The Arena” with Cari Champion, Dwyane Wade, Draymond Green, and Charles Barkley which highlighted pretty much all of the demonstrations and initiatives that have gone on during quarantine.

On July 30th the NBA returned with to much fanfare. 

From the beginning of this restart, the games have been compelling. The post game interviews have an emphasis on social causes while all of this action is taking place in a bubble at Disney World. As of this writing, every person inhabiting the bubble has been tested for COVID-19 at least 3 times now. The NBA bubble has yet to yield a single positive result. In fact, on August 15th, Zach Lowe of ESPN reported that the NBA and the NBPA help fund a new saliva based COVID test. The test has yielded almost the same results as the nasal swab contingent. It also is a cheaper process to get the results. Again, the NBA has been proactive when most necessary. Beyond social justice advocacy and the spirit of competition, what the NBA has done here is provide the country with a real time example of how to be diligent about containing and eradicating COVID-19. This restart is a success, and it will continue to be. With the playoffs in full swing, we’re in great Paul Georgeless hands, so long as no one bursts this bubble.

These are my words and I make no apologies.


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