NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined ESPN’s Mike Greenberg as part of the network’s special The Return of Sports which featured interviews with commissioners of the country’s top sports leagues, and opened up a variety of topics, including the plan of the NBA to resume the season in Orlando, Florida.
“I can only say that it may not be for everyone,” Silver said of the return to game plan as players discuss whether they will play amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with national attention to systemic racism and police brutality ( h / t Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle). “It’s not an ideal situation.”
Silver acknowledged going to Florida and isolating himself in a campus-like environment away from families while there is so much attention on society issues “it will entail a huge sacrifice”, adding “I don’t want to sugar it.”
He also said he understood if some players are not comfortable returning and stressed that the league will “accept” whatever decision individual players make when the NBA approaches the return date of July 30th.
The interview came after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews reported that Brooklyn guard Nets Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley organized a coalition of players to give voice to those concerned about the return and may not feel comfortable talking publicly.
Irving and Bradley helped organize player calls on Friday and Monday to discuss issues such as how much attention will be removed from the fight against racism and police brutality if the season picks up again and what kind of insurance and liability will be in place if in which players become sick or injured.
Silver acknowledged these concerns and suggested that a return to the game would represent an “opportunity for NBA players in the larger community to draw attention to these issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA”.
He also stressed the amount of media attention that would attract a recovery in the season and said it would give players even bigger platforms to fight for the social changes they are driving towards.
Portland Trail Blazer guard Damian Lillard joined the interview and agreed that the return would give players a bigger platform, but stressed that many don’t think much about basketball at the present time. He specifically mentioned Irving, claiming to agree with many of the points raised by Nets’ guard.
As for gaming amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lillard said, “I don’t feel 100% comfortable, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
The NBA season has been suspended since March 11th and Silver admitted that he never thought the league would be away for so long when he made the decision to pause the game at the time.
“It was incredibly difficult for everyone involved,” he said.