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Strauss: NBA Was Slow, Financially Motivated in COVID-19 Response

In a scathing essay, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic paints a league more concerned about dollars than fans.

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69th NBA All-Star Game Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NBA has suspended the 2019-20 season due to the threat posed by the COVID-19, “Coronavirus”, but according to a scathing essay by Ethan Strauss of The Athletic, the move came late and only after every effort to secure the league’s financial status. Strauss penned an extensive essay today, discussing the transmission of the pandemic-level virus and how the NBA ignored the potential for same until it could no longer deny the reality of spreading infection.

Strauss discusses the early, ineffectual measures taken by the league with full knowledge that the virus was on the move:

In the first weeks, as the coronavirus threat grew, the league’s measures to combat it were incremental, tangential and, in the end, irresponsible. In the face of an emerging pandemic, the NBA warned against signed autographs, banned locker-room media access, floated the idea of games in different cities and were just about to test the empty-gym trial balloon. These measures were as much about denial as they were about mitigation. Once COVID-19 started popping up in our major cities, it was hard to see this going any other way, even if the NBA kept looking for a miracle. That search may have brought a heavy cost. Games were played in front of tens of thousands, after the risk became obvious. The irony is that, after so much league focus on protecting players from the masses, transmission could have easily gone in the other direction.

He also suggests that NBA claims of consulting with medical experts to help assess the way forward were, at best, lip service.

Once COVID-19 started spreading in major cities, was there any credible expert on infectious disease who thought well of playing games attended by 20,000 people? The NBA kept telling us that they were consulting with experts in the field. Which ones were fine with the packed-arena setting as health officials kept warning the public about “large gatherings”? Can we be frank about how the league knowingly risked peoples’ lives in order to cling to the last bit of cash?

Strauss spends several paragraphs detailing the daily practices of NBA players, how the routine of a professional athlete makes transmission more likely and more wide-reaching than the activities of the average person would. He also goes all in on the league’s lack of concern for fans and the extreme likelihood of an NBA arena becoming a hotbed in which the virus flourishes and spreads. It’s well worth a read.