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Friday, February 05, 2021

The NBA's COVID-19 Bubble Has Burst

The NBA received a lot of praise for the "bubble" that enabled the league to finish the 2019-20 season and conduct the 2020 playoffs, but this season the NBA's bubble is bursting. Tonight, Kevin Durant was prohibited from starting for the Brooklyn Nets due to the health and safety protocols, then he was permitted to play in the game, and then he was abruptly pulled from the game due to the health and safety protocols. His status for upcoming games is uncertain, though he sent out a tweet shortly after being removed from the game: "Free me." At least Durant is keeping everything in perspective during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of over two million people worldwide; his desire for the freedom to get paid millions of dollars to pay basketball is clearly the most important issue here, right?

Let's be honest: if "health and safety" was the primary concern, then if there were any realistic chance that Durant is infected/could infect others he would have been immediately isolated, as opposed to being held out, then permitted to play, then pulled from the game. The NBA is not primarily focused on protecting its players, let alone protecting other people; the league is primarily focused on completing this season at all costs while appearing to act in a responsible manner--and many media members are complicit in this sham, praising the NBA for running its business as it sees fit while criticizing other people and businesses for living their lives as they see fit.

The NBA is a privately run business, and the league has the right--within the confines of federal and state laws/regulations--to run its business how it sees fit. So, if the NBA wants to have a season and is following those laws/regulations, then it is up to consumers to decide to support or not support the NBA's efforts. That is how capitalism works, and--for all of its flaws--capitalism works better than any other system that has been tried. 

That being said, the NBA can stop making pious-sounding statements about how it is trying to handle things responsibly and prioritizing health and safety. The NBA is trying to make as much money as possible. Period. Otherwise, the season would not be taking place now under these conditions; the NBA would be back in the "bubble" or the start of the season would have been delayed until more people have been vaccinated and the case counts/death rates dropped.

Many NBA games have been postponed/canceled due to health and safety protocols, many players have openly flouted the precautions that they are supposed to follow--potentially endangering not only themselves but also others--and it has become increasingly apparent that the league is motivated by money above all other considerations, which should not surprise anyone who has followed the league's hypocritical pronouncements and policies, including its shameful abandonment of its most elderly and vulnerable retired players: the league could have spent just a few million dollars--a drop in the bucket of billions of dollars that the league rakes in every year--to ensure a comfortable retirement for its "pre-65ers" and retired ABA veterans, but instead the league dragged its feet while dozens of retired players died in poverty, and even now the league still does not fully provide for the players who laid the foundations for the riches enjoyed by owners and players alike.

The league is very willing to be outspoken about some issues when taking those stands will likely help--or, at the very least, not hurt--revenue, but the league is silent while millions of people are brutalized by a Chinese government that has a mutually profitable relationship with the league.

President Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly declared that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not a partisan issue, as President Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly agreed with Pompeo's assessment. China's horrific conduct is not new but, sadly, it is also not news--the media has many other topics that it prefers to cover--and it has zero impact on the NBA's lucrative financial dealings with China. 

The NBA cares about profits above all else. That is why the league will not cut ties with China, that is why the league finished last season in a "bubble" during the middle of a pandemic, that is why the league started the current season prior to Christmas Day as opposed to starting the season in January 2021 (the early start preserved at least several hundred million dollars in revenue), and that is why the league is determined to throw together some kind of All-Star Game this season even though many players--including LeBron James--are publicly opposed to that idea. The All-Star Game is worth millions of dollars to the NBA and its media partners, so the show must go on, with lip service paid to "health and safety."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver initially denied that the league's players would "jump the line" to be vaccinated but recently he has suggested that NBA players could be vaccinated as part of some kind of public service campaign; ostensibly, vaccinating NBA players would increase public confidence in the vaccines, but it should be obvious that public service announcements could accomplish this without potentially leaving some of the most vulnerable people exposed to COVID-19 while some of the healthiest and least vulnerable people receive vaccines in order to protect their millions of dollars and the NBA's billions of dollars. 

The league has no credibility to speak collectively on social or political issues, because the primary motivating factor for the league is money. This is not a call for players to "shut up and dribble"; individual players who walk what they talk should speak their minds, but the notion that the league as an organization is "progressive" is, at best, deceptive and incomplete. The league's hiring practices may be more equitable than the hiring practices of other sports leagues--and that is commendable--but no one should be looking to the NBA for words of wisdom about foreign policy, COVID-19, or any other political/social issue that in any way affects the league's bottom line.

I am not saying that the NBA is right--or wrong--in terms of how the league is running this season; I am saying that the NBA is hypocritical because its words/public statements do not match its deeds not only regarding COVID-19 but also regarding a host of issues, including genocide being committed by one of the league's biggest financial partners.

The silence of many media outlets, corporations, and entire governments during the Holocaust is vile and inexcusable. The silence of media outlets, corporations, and entire governments during the Chinese genocide is vile and inexcusable. Much has been written and said about who is on the "right side of history" and who is on the "wrong side of history." Unfortunately, regarding China--and other issues beyond the scope of this article--there are far too many media outlets, corporations, and governments that are on the wrong side of history.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:52 PM



At Saturday, February 06, 2021 9:34:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


These players wont risk any thing that effects they money

They arent ali jim brown who fought against true racial oppression.

They dont speak of real racial oppression its just neo liberal politics which does nothing for black people

Covid is real but it affects older people mainly far as death 90 percent are 65 and older 98 percent of deaths are 50 and over.

Nba players are all 20 to 40 so no they are not a high priority no nba player came close to dieing hundreds had it

Far as china the players spoke out about trump cause no money was involved and china is powerful and they wasnt risking taking that risk

Even tho the players dont have to speak out about china technically it made them look bad

The nba cares about Money first

And anything else is bs there no doubt that the goal isnt safety first its money first

The nfl gets flack but nba not much better money talks bs walks

At Monday, February 22, 2021 9:09:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I agree David. Why haven't the NBA players spoken out about atrocities in Myanmar. They don't have stuff of their Great and Great Great grandparents who fought for freedoms abroad that they themselves didn't have at home. The events of January 6th may have shown that some members of law enforcement may have some questionable beliefs and ties but where do these athletes get off protesting? Don't worry be happy is my philosophy.

At Wednesday, February 24, 2021 9:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for your comment.

I don't know why the NBA players have not spoken out about Myanmar and about other atrocities, particularly because the league and the players present themselves as "woke" and "progressive." I find their silence about China particularly appalling because the league and the players are profiting from their deals with China, so they have a special responsibility to be informed about China's policies.


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