October 25, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Risk takers: NBA ‘bubble’ saves this season from Kovid-19. But another crisis is waiting inside

Risk takers: NBA 'bubble' saves this season from Kovid-19.  But another crisis is waiting inside

“Sports canary in the coal mine,” Pete Giorgio, principal at Deloitte, which leads the company’s U.S. sports practice, told CNN Business. “[Coronavirus] Until then it was not ‘real’ in the US, in a way – it was something that was happening abroad. And then it quickly changed. “

Nine months later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to suspend the game is clear. At the time, he was the first person to nurture the league’s delicately balanced ecosystem with vested interests, with players inherently interested in everything from arena sponsors to broadcast networks.

Two national basketball players’ association leaders, President Chris Paul and Executive Director Mitchell Roberts, along with Silver, had to find a way to keep players safe – pulling together a team of experts from various fields to create a kind of “bubble” isolation zone. That proves successful. But as those plans unfold, killing on May 25th George Floyd A Minneapolis police officer has led massive social justice protests across the country and across the league.

The trio of NBA leaders now recognize that they are facing dual crises: how to play back safely during the global pandemic when facing a national census on race?

“[In March] We don’t know half of what we know about this virus now, but you have to make decisions about how you’re going to move forward, “Giorgio said.” It takes a lot of courage – and a lot of risk. “

Bubble building

On March 11, Silver spent time with medical professionals, Roberts, team owners and others on how to respond to a rapidly declining epidemic. USA Today. News came that the Utah Jazz Center had tested Rudy Gobert positively. Within hours the league announced the decision to delay.

“Adam had to come to a consensus from a group of stakeholders – it was like cats were being herded,” said Andrew Brandt, host of the podcast “Business of Sports” and executive director of the Murad Center for Sports Law at Villanova University. “You have the league and the players, the team ownership is interested in ticket and sponsorship revenue, [teams from] Small markets with different economic considerations, networks, events. “

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As soon as the league paused this season, an even more challenging decision presented itself: how to start it all over again.

Roberts and Paul Silver, along with other league officials – legal, medical and business experts – spent months discussing players’ personal concerns, from Kovid protocols to financial matters. Their work ends in a 100-plus-page document that outlines a six-step plan to transition into and out of the bubble, where the full season will be played.

Twenty-two of the league’s 30 teams – suspended in six games of the post-season berth during the day – went into that bubble on the closed campus at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. From July to October the players live, play and practice closely. The plan covers everything from cleaning basketballs to covering referees’ whistles to daily testing and isolation guidelines.

“I grew up very quickly to understand the loneliness, the quarantine … the social distance and the importance of using masks,” said Roberts, who was about to retire from the NBPA, but continued to help cope with the Kovid. Sports Illustrated. “It seemed so simple and it’s working in other environments … the question is how do we take that confinement and do it in the group context.”
Michelle Roberts, NBA Players Executive Director & # 39;  Photo taken at Union, August 8, 2014.
Creating a setup at Disney would cost the league $ 170 million. And it’s not perfect, some players are frustrated with being separated from family and friends and Others will have to be detained Departs accidentally or intentionally Bubble.
But it worked. In stark contrast Spread It favored other leagues, with the NBA season ending on October 11 with a significant number of Kovid-19 cases: zero.

The ‘once in a lifetime’ power of players in one place

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The fight with Kovid-19 was not the only issue extending to those first night games on July 30th. There is another challenge on display – built long before the coronavirus epidemic.

Almost every The NBA player took the knee Wear “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts before resuming night games. The courts were painted with the BLM logo and some players replaced the names on their jerseys with messages such as “Equality,” “Allie” and “Say Her Name”. These statements were a strong response to the deaths of George Floyd and Bryona Taylor at the hands of the police.

“It all came to a head and the guys really started communicating and started to realize that you don’t have to shut up and drop dots,” Paul told CNN’s Dan Lemon during the 2020 Citizen by CNN conference.

Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel before the Black Lives Matter logo on July 30, 2020 at the HP Field House in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Reunion, Florida.

“Usually after the game, you say‘ oh, how is your family ’and you go your separate ways,” Paul added. “We really had a chance to connect in the bubble … we want to sit at the table and move our plan forward. It’s a really good dialogue, and I think it’s very important.”

The power of personal relationships was highlighted again in August Jacob Blake, An unarmed black man, was shot in the back by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The The Milwaukee Bucks have decided not to play their Game 5 playoff Against the Orlando Magic a few nights later. Two other NBA games, such as Five Major League Soccer and three Major League Baseball games, were quickly discontinued because athletes across the country expressed solidarity with the Bucks players.

“Everyone has the opportunity to meet in the ballroom, and it’s time to hash this important discussion about whether they are playing,” Brand said. “It’s a collective force to implement change in action.”

“I want people to see this as the values ​​of this league”, “such issues” are clearly localized to this league, where 80% of the players are black, with Silver CTN speaking to Bob Costas at CTN. These are particularly important issues, [ones] This league has been talking for so long. “

Chris Paul smiles at the Oklahoma City Thunder during a game against the Houston Rockets during a seven round one game at the NBA Playoffs on September 2, 2020 at The Advent Health Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
Roberts said The Washington Post “It’s something our fans have to learn to live with … If a fan honestly finds the idea of ​​Black Lives Matter they do not like to watch basketball, I’m sleeping on it.”
Roberts, Paul, Silver and the entire NBA ecosystem are gearing up to launch a new season on December 22 – this time outside the bubble defense “in the real world”, Despite the precautions. This is already very different: the NBA said last week that cases continue to be reported across the country where about 9% of the 48 players in the league reported positive tests by reporting to training camps.

The 2021 plan introduces other transportation challenges with factors such as the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which occupy the athlete’s schedule. But for Silver, Paul, Roberts and the rest of the NBA, this is another issue they have to count on after a season.

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“Again, this is what we’ve going to do,” Silver told Costas about the Olympics. “These are very special and extraordinary circumstances … and we need to find a way to merge and mesh those competing considerations.”