By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and as the full scope of the NBA’s season’s resumption comes into focus, the admittedly creative set-up is drawing a large amount of backlash from an expected source: the players. While not many have been vocal about concerns surrounding the NBA’s restart-based restart, many likely are hesitant to accept a return to the court. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been the most outspoken, but he is hardly the lone dissenter among the NBA’s player pool.
While Irving’s motivations are genuine, it is fair to question whether he’d have the same feelings were he actively playing this season. Out for the season due to injury, Irving will not be taking the court for the Nets upon the season’s return. For all the teams with genuine championship aspirations, the prospect of returning to the court would present not only the chance to get back to the game of basketball but also allowing the players to champion off-court causes to a broad, national audience. This conversation is far from over, and there isn’t a right or wrong side in it.
Another cause for concern among players is the health risk involved, both from exposure to COVID-19 but also in a general sense. Many of basketball’s best young stars are going to be looking to cash in on their first significant contract extensions this summer. Returning to the court after such a long, unexpected hiatus presents a unique chance for injury. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, and New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram are just a few potentially max-contract earners with big questions to ponder heading into the resumption of the NBA season.
To the NBA’s credit, the league has announced intentions to allow any player concerned about the resumption of the season to not report to Orlando without fear of punishment. However, the caveat is that the players that do not report will not be paid. For the lower-rung of the NBA roster pool, the concerns surrounding the season’s resumption will likely not outweigh the financial aspects of returning to work. It is also fair to question the player’s pay for the playoffs, given their increased risk and the likely colossal viewership pining for the return of the NBA season.
Moving along to baseball, the MLBPA rejected the latest offer from the league in an obvious move. Following the rejection, the MLBPA announced that it would no longer be negotiating with the league. Given the absurdity surrounding the owner’s proposals, the decision by the MLBPA is reasonable. Now, it appears the pressure will be on commissioner Rob Manfred, who the union has requested to determine the number of regular season games and a player-report date. Considering Manfred has routinely been an extension of the owners, his decision will likely favor the league’s proposal of a short (45-50 game) regular season followed by an expanded playoff.
As soon as Manfred announces his decision, the MLBPA is expected to file a grievance. It is becoming increasingly likely that the owners are so afraid of a second, more significant wave of COVID-19 hitting in the fall and canceling the postseason—and thus crushing the huge profit associated with playoff baseball—the league would prefer to not have a 2020 season at all. Were the owners interested in playing the 2020 season, even in an abbreviated fashion, they would be actively negotiating with the MLBPA rather than making bad-faith offers while publicly trashing the stance of the players.