BASKETBALL Hall of Famer Charles Barkley disagrees with the plan of Kyrie Irving, the outspoken but injured guard of the Brooklyn Nets, and Dwight Howard, a valuable center reserve for the championship-contending Los Angeles Lakers, not to return to complete the 2019-20 NBA season.
“It will be a catastrophic mistake for NBA players not to play (in an NBA restart),” says Barkley, a two-time Olympian (1992 and 1996) who beat Michael Jordan for the NBA MVP hardware in 1993 while donning the colors of the Phoenix Suns.
With Irving out since March due to shoulder injury, Irving was not expected to play anyway in an NBA restart. Howard, who begged the LA Lakers to accept him for a second time prior to this pandemic-plagued season, believes suiting up will be a “distraction” in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality.
Money appears to be a driving force for players to return to action. At the moment, they have always lost around $345 million in salaries and stand to part with another $300 million if the 2019-20 wars are canceled.
All told, NBA players would stand to lose $ 1.2 billion in salary without a resumption of play this season.
It also now becomes more touchy since the NBA can exercise the “force majeure” provision and throw away the collective bargaining agreement which essentially calls for a 50-50 percentage split of the BRI (basketball-related income).
No player is obligated to play in the NBA restart but he will not be paid his salary. As agreed upon by the NBA and its players union, players will not be punished for not playing but they also will not be paid.
Already the players have seen their twice-a-month paychecks (15th and 30th) deducted by 25 percent since the start of May. A portion of that deduction can be recouped with the resumption of league play on July 30 (July 31 Manila time) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, USA.
Only 22 of the 30 NBA member teams have been invited to play in the return-to-play scenario.
Irving and Howard obviously need not hoop since they have earned hundreds of millions of dollars through the years.
The problem is nearly one-third of the current players with below-average paychecks may not be able to survive.
Last June 4 (June 5 Manila time), the NBA Board of Governors voted 29-1 (only Portland voted against) to resume activity at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. A days later, the players’ team representatives voted 28-0 to adopt the NBA’s formula for a return-to-play plan, which in essence was the idea of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
However, more than 80 players, including Irving, who is one of the NBA players union’s six elected vice presidents, informing others through a Zoom conference last June 12 (June 13 MT) that he would not be playing due to ongoing issue concerning over racial injustice following the murder of a 46-year-old black at the hands of a white officer from the Minneapolis state police last May 25 that sparked protest riots as well as looting in many states in America.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” said Irving, who once opined that the earth is flat. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls….. Something smells a little fishy.”
All the while, many people thought the players who are against the return-to-play scenario were concerned over coronavirus (COVID-19)-related health issues, such as the stringent safety protocols in relation to the mass infections (and deaths) arising from the global pandemic, of which the U.S. owns the most number of positive cases and fatalities as well.
It turned out there were other issues at hand such as seeking social and police reforms at this time instead of playing that are distracting and dividing the players. And that is the major reason why some Johnny-come-lately social activists are against playing in a restart.
Joining Irving in the boycott group were Howard (who was quoted as saying “basketball isn’t needed at this moment and will only be a distraction” to the Black Lives Matter movement) and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell among other players.
For another thing, entertaining the masses following the death of Floyd is not exactly the right time to do, echoed Irving’s group even as most Americans following the NBA games are well-off whites.
Then again, LeBron James and some other high-profile players believe there is another social platform to send their “Black Lives Matter” message across. And that is to play and earn money to be able to sustain their push for social reforms in their communities and elsewhere.
Both sides may have a point or two. But in the end, it will still be the opinion of the invisible and invincible COVID-19 that will decide the fate of the remainder of the NBA’s 2019-20 wars.
Sadly, both the NBA and its players union may yet wind up losers if the coronavirus does not go away in a jiffy.
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