The 2019-20 season – which was postponed in March – is set to get back underway on July 31, with 22 of the 30 NBA teams congregating in Orlando, Florida, to finish the season at the Disney World complex.
But although Silver is certain that “it will be safer on this campus than off this campus,” a “significant spread” of positive cases between players could result in the cancellation of the season.
“Certainly, if we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop,” Silver told Time. “You cannot run from this virus. I am absolutely convinced that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus, because there aren’t many other situations I’m aware of where there’s mass testing of asymptomatic employees. So in some ways this is maybe a model for how other industries ultimately open.
“[It’s] never ‘full steam no matter what.’ One thing we’re learning about this virus is that much is unpredictable.”
The NBA recently announced that after testing 302 of its players, 16 tested positive. One of those 16, DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets, posted on Twitter that following his positive test, he won’t be traveling to Florida.
The ratio of positive cases at the moment does not worry Silver though. “It’s not alarming based on what we’re seeing in the broader population,” says Silver. “In many ways, it was somewhat predictable. Where I’m most relieved … is that among those 16 positive tests, there are no severe cases.”
A coalition of NBA players – led by Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving – have voiced their opposition to the league’s plan for restarting and have instead decided to sit out the remainder of the season to continue focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement and the global call for social change in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police in May.
However, Silver believes that players can do more good by using their platforms during the restart, with the eyes of the sporting world watching.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are planning to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on all playing courts in Orlando, a source familiar with the plan told CNN on Monday.
And Silver supports the players and their desire to speak out.
“These athletes want to be heard on these issues, understandably,” Silver said. “And we also, at least in the case of the NBA, have a league where roughly 75% of our players are Black.
“They are probably some of the most prominent Black people in the entire world. They don’t just park their skin color, or who they are, when they play basketball. They have their life experiences, and they want to bring those to bear.”