The NBA was the first of the major sports leagues in North America to close its doors to COVID-19. More than a month later, they are not sure when they can return to action.
Promising that it is “data, no date,” Commissioner Adam Silver said the league can only gather information and wait for a conference call Friday night following a regularly scheduled board meeting – a meeting that would normally have taken place the day before the NBA playoffs.
“We all have to accept that we are operating with incomplete facts here,” said Silver. “There is a lot to learn about the virus. “
He added, “We are unable to make a decision [about returning to play] and we don’t know when we will be. “
Silver recognized that “if there is a great symbolism around sport [the United States] and as far as we find a way back, it will be very meaningful for the Americans… we are not at the point where we can say if [conditions] A, B and C are filled, then there is a clear path.
“There is still too much uncertainty at this point to say how accurately we are moving forward. The underlying principle remains the health and safety of NBA players and everyone involved, we start with that as paramount and the decision tree goes from there “
Silver said the league would monitor the rate of infections, the availability of large-scale testing, the progress of potential vaccines and potential antiviral drugs as part of any decision to return to the game, no matter how distant.
“There is a lot of data,” he said.
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According to previous reports, it is expected that teams and players will need approximately 25 days to prepare for any returns and the league has considered scenarios where the 2019-2020 season will extend into July and August.
But Silver said any discussion that the NBA could return to play without fans in one quarantined location like the Las Vegas casino – the so-called “bubble concept” – is premature.
” A lot [ideas] were offered and we just listened, “said Silver, who stressed that any return to the game should be preceded by assurances that front-line health workers were properly taken care of in terms of testing and of PPE. “We are not yet seriously engaged in this type of environment, because I cannot respond to what we would specifically need to see to feel that the environment provided the health and safety that we would need for our players and everyone involved.
“While I am sitting here today, there are too many unknowns to set a calendar, there are too many unknowns to say” these are the precise variables “… we are not in a position to know more at this point. “
Silver said the NBA and their owners were eager to return to play this season, but with important caveats.
“My feeling as an NBA team owner is that, if they can be part of the movement to restart our economy, that includes the NBA. They almost see it as a civic obligation, “he said. “… But when it comes to human life, it trumps everything we can possibly talk about. This is where the conversations started and ended today. “
Silver also confirmed an initial report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that the league and the NBA Players Association have agreed on a mechanism to withhold players’ money if games are canceled due to COVID-19.
Players will be paid in full on May 1, but their checks will be cut by 25% – according to a formula within the CBA – from May 15, with pay cuts extending up to the first two months of the 2020-21 season.
The NBA and the players share the income from basketball in an approximately 51-49 split in favor of the players. To allow for adjustments, players already have 10% of their salary – about $ 380 million in total – in escrow in case income is lower than expected. As long as the income meets expectations, players receive the money held at the end of the fiscal year.
But with the league having stopped operations, it is expected that revenues will be below the 10% held in escrow. By cutting wages now, the league will no longer have to chase players for after-the-money money and any potential loss of income for players will be phased in.
The CBA has a force majeure provision never used before that allows owners to recover wages due to loss of income due to “unforeseeable circumstances”. It is automatically triggered once the games are officially canceled due to epidemics, pandemics or the order of government.
According to the Associated Press, the ABC stipulates that players lose approximately 1.09% of their salary per game canceled, based on the force majeure clause. With 259 regular season games left, if canceled, players could lose approximately $ 800 million in gross wages.
In the event of cancellation of games, the case of force majeure is automatically triggered in the language of the ABC.
The NBA was the first major professional sports league to end a test positive for the Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert on March 11.
In previous statements, Silver said he would not provide any indication of the next steps in the league until May 1, given the uncertainty of the landscape.
He said Friday that his outlook had not changed and that there was no guarantee that there would be clear guidelines to offer at this point.