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The Hollywood Insider NBA COVID Controversies

Photo: NBA COVID-19 Controversies

The National Basketball Association, NBA, is one of the wealthiest and long-standing sports organizations in the world, breeding some of the greatest athletes known today. Formed in 1946 in New York, New York, it was originally known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA), with regular seasons running from October to April. They originally had each season have 82 games with the playoffs extending into the June summertime. Now there are 30 teams, 29 from the United States and 1 in Canada with their 2020 athletes being some of the world’s best-paid athletes if you count by average annual salary for each player. 

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With multiple partnerships with major networks like ABC/ESPN, TNT, NBA TV, and more their worldwide notoriety and recognition are well deserved. Most impressive is their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the extenuating circumstances and the millions of dollars lost during the hiatus they took at the beginning of the virus, they found a way to play the season. Their impressive ability to adapt as players and as businesses is the reason the league was able to remain afloat during the 2019-2020 season. 

“Since March 2020, the NBA made a few bold decisions and implemented good public health measures before our political leaders did,” Bharti, a partner to the NBA said. “The early cancellation of games was an important and a critical component in public health messaging regarding the seriousness of this pandemic.”

NBA’s Approach to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The “NBA Bubble” was created on the Disneyworld grounds in Miami, and as its name hints, it was a closed-off environment where all the teams that remained a part of the season got to practice, play, and compete with one another. Although strange at first, it miraculously worked, with barely any participants of the Bubble contracting COVID-19. They tested daily, were forbidden from leaving the premises, and while it was mentally exhausting and meant increasing time away from family, it lead to the eventual Bubble championship game between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks took it home, winning a strange year of basketball and getting to carry that mantle along with all of their season accomplishments. 

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Adam Silver, the fifth and current commissioner of the NBA said that the losses were overwhelming with the league falling $1.5 billion short of the revenue projections they’d hoped for last season. The league is still confident in their ability though, and they’ve adapted their business model to fit the new COVID restrictions. This includes mandating vaccines for those attending the games in the Arenas, which sparked controversy but is deemed necessary in order to have fully safe and functioning arenas. 

“The benefit of the mandate is that our officials are flying commercially. They have families they’re coming back to. We’re engaged in the business of basketball. We’re in intimate environments with our players. We recognize the importance of the vaccine. I think this will all work itself out on all levels among all leagues.”

Unfortunately, this means the revenue generated by the stadiums has also decreased leading to much trimming of the workforce including laying off business side employees that worked in ticket sales and game presentation. 

Players, Staff, Coaches and The League’s New Business Model

Players themselves are traveling to different stadiums now as well, something that had been stopped completely during the bubble. They’ve now had to adjust to fully masking themselves when entering, training or even sitting on the sidelines in between quarters or during time outs. Thankfully most are eager to contribute to the new rules and implementations for the sake of the sport and the safety of their fans, friends, and family. 

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Unfortunately, this easy compliance hasn’t extended to all players, and it created many problems and controversies among the NBA. Now 95% of the league has been vaccinated but those who haven’t are creating whispers among the league. The NBA isn’t requiring mandatory vaccination but many of the states where major teams are stationed are requiring their citizens to get the shot. 

One such exemption has been Kyrie Irving, who’s the starting point guard for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s chosen to remain unvaccinated saying he is neither pro-vaccine nor an anti-vaxxer just that he’s considering his decisions and their implications very carefully. He’s now been forbidden from playing with Nets until he complies with the New York vaccine mandate, which does require vaccination no matter what. Irving claims he isn’t upset with New York, the Nets organization, his teammates, or the NBA just that he wants to keep people safe and respects the decisions of others and hopes they can respect his stance as well. 

Irving’s financial losses are astronomical but he claims that he is going to, “continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing. This is not a political thing; this is not about the NBA, not about any organization. This is about my life and what I am choosing to do.” 

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Decisions and Declining Careers: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, and More

If Irving continues to sit out however and not play the games at his home court or on the road, he will be losing over $17 million and the possibility of an extended contract with Brooklyn that could give him $187 million. His frustration was palpable on Instagram live where he addressed many of the rumors and comments from fans and haters alike. He claimed that he would not end his career like this, despite the unfortunate and unfair circumstances

“No, I am not retiring. And no, I am not going and leaving this game like this. There is still so much more work to do.”

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards is on the same boat as Irving, claiming that he is remaining unvaccinated for personal reasons despite the pressure that is being placed upon him. It’s a tough decision and climate for many of the players who are choosing to remain unnvaccinated and also for the teammates who now have to grapple with the sudden loss of some of their best on the court.

 But, as per the NBA way, everyone is respectful of the decisions being made and that is the most admirable part of this entire experience and the politics occurring behind the scenes. Hopefully, as time progresses and the stakes of the game increase as well, players can make the decisions that most benefit themselves and their teams, preserving the safety of those involved while also maintaining the excitement and thrill of playing for one of the most renowned leagues in the world. 

By Mireille Karadanaian

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “The Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard.

Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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