While Los Angeles Lakers fans have anxiously been awaiting the return of the NBA, this is a far more complicated issue than it appears to be on the surface.
It is why Kyrie Irving, alongside players like Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard and Donavan Mitchell, among several others, participated in a conference call to discuss returning to play in the Orlando bubble amid all the ongoing issues.
Things in the United States were already complicated due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the possibility of getting infected may have been enough to make players want to stay home. Then, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer on May 25 sparked outrage and nationwide protesting.
Many players are excited to get back to playing, and believe they can make real change while on the basketball court. However, some, including Irving and Howard, believe that basketball returning will be used as a distraction from the issues at hand, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Irving and several players on the call, including Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Donovan Mitchell, spoke out about not supporting the restarted season because of ongoing social injustice, racism and coronavirus concerns, according to sources. Bradley, the Lakers guard, was the second person to speak on the call behind Irving and was vocal throughout, urging players to take a stand and utilize this moment to “play chess, not checkers,” those sources said.
Howard stressed to players that playing in Orlando will become a distraction from the issues the country is facing, and that they need to unify and use this moment to create a change.
This is an extremely complex issue that, in all likelihood, doesn’t have a correct answer. Both arguments have very valid points, and they are points that need to be heard out in detail.
Those who are fighting for a return to play say that their ability to advocate for social justice will be even greater if basketball is on, as all eyes will be on the season.
They also cite the devastating financial implications of not only losing the remainder of this season, but the potential of having to re-negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the middle of a pandemic. Jared Dudley has been particularly vocal about that possibility.
However, those who fight against restarting the season believe that basketball will be used as a distraction. Even if players dedicate all their non-playing time to make a difference in communities, there is concern focus will be on the results of the games, and not social matters.
There is also the possibility of players contracting a virus that is highly contagious.
With July 7 a target date for when players and staff will begin to enter the bubble, there is some time for the NBA to address concerns and find a solution.