While a faction of players have expressed doubts about participating, the NBA is moving ever closer to a resumption of the 2019-20 season. In an effort to mitigate the COVID-19 risk involved with restarting the season, the league informed teams in a memo on Saturday that players and staff taking part will be tested for the novel coronavirus every other day, beginning on June 23 and continuing until teams arrive at the Walt Disney World campus where the season will be concluded.
The memo, which was obtained by ESPN, reportedly stated that players and those who will be working with them directly — coaches, trainers and medical personnel — as well as any other staff that will be joining teams in the league’s Orlando, Florida, bubble environment, will undergo standard COVID-19 testing and antibody testing on June 23.
The document apparently did not give details about what the testing procedure would be once teams are onsite or after the league’s targeted restart date of July 30. Nor did it reveal the protocol in the event that a player or staff member tests positive for infection. However, sources tell ESPN‘S Zach Lowe that the tests will be a less invasive nasal swab.
Lowe and Tim Bontemps further reported that international players who had previously left the country have been prompted to return to their home markets by Monday, June 15, in preparation for the restart, with the remainder of the league’s players scheduled to return one week later on June 22.
According to the report, the league will be partnering with Quest Diagnostics to provide testing. Furthermore, it is taking steps to ensure that it won’t be taking tests away from essential healthcare workers, first responders and symptomatic COVID-19 patients in teams’ home markets.
Although both the NBA’s Board of Governors and the National Basketball Players Association have approved the return to play, a group of 50-60 or more players reportedly feel like the resolution was rubber-stamped, expressing concerns about the coronavirus, injury risk and a desire to take a stand amid Black Lives Matter protests around the United States. As reported previously by The Inquisitr, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been a vocal leader among the faction, leaning heavily into his wish to support the fight against racial injustice.
Meanwhile, Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers has seemingly taken a stance contrary to Irving, opining that players shouldn’t forego their salaries or potentially harm the league by electing not to participate in the restart. He has asserted that they can support the cause in other ways.
The NBA season has been suspended since mid-March when All-Star center Rudy Gobert became the league’s first player to test positive for COVID-19.