Last May, I wrote about whether the coronavirus pandemic could sway European NBA players away from re-signing with American teams. It was during the height of lockdowns, when the United States and European Union’s Schengen Area had reciprocal bans on all non-essential travel, without an exception for professional athletes. Those were wild times.
Since then, the Trump Administration here in the USA granted exemptions to the travel ban for professional athletes, including the NBA and WNBA. The EU is also allowing American professional athletes in the Schengen Area because they are there to work.
But what about American athletes who are openly wondering about whether to go to Europe ... and stay there?
For the WNBA, most players go overseas during the winter, including to countries that are in the Schengen Area. For example, Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen is going to BLMA in Montpelier, France and we hope she does well for the Gazelles! But Jacki Gemelos tweeted last Saturday that she liked Europe more than the USA.
Europe is such a vibe. I think I like living here more than America. But what does that mean...Can a girl get a dope ass job in sports out here orrrr? After basketball that is.— Jacki Gemelos (@JackiG_23) October 3, 2020
Gemelos is currently playing for Kayseri Basketbol in the Turkish KBSL. Gemelos also holds Greek citizenship herself, so she may have a head start on working in an EU state whenever her playing days end, whether it’s Greece or elsewhere. Still, I think Gemelos has a point.
Europe, in particular the EU’s western countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, where the EU’s de-facto capital is offer a lifestyle that is similar to America’s. They are all democracies. Their national (or federal in the case of Belgium’s and Germany’s) governments offer similar freedoms as America’s. And in general, their political parties promote civil dialogue among each other given that most European countries have a multi-party system.
It’s safe to say that the U.S. right now hasn’t looked its best to the rest of the world in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic response is just part of it, where over 200,000 Americans died since last March. Face masks are still considered political props or optional by some to control the spread of COVID-19. Health care access is still not considered a human right. And we have a reckoning with race where protests have become a major part of the political narrative.
While the virus will eventually be managed, a resolution to systemic racism in America probably won’t be resolved anytime soon regardless of who wins the U.S. Presidential Election. But depending on who wins, things can still become more heated.
To be clear, Europe is not a utopian paradise. There is a populist, often xenophoic far-right movement in western countries that has influence in each of those four countries I mentioned. There is a migrant situation in Greece which still needs more support from the EU as a whole.
Though I’ve praised the EU for managing the coronavirus earlier this year, cases are going back up there and some places have brought back restrictions.
And there is racism in Europe too. Asian Europeans were harassed early this year when the coronavirus was centered in China. And the western nations in particular also have large percentages of Middle Eastern and Black people in the cities, many of whom face more scrutiny from police and other forms of racism.
Still, it’s still telling that at least one American athlete, even if she’s a dual citizen, openly wondered whether she should live in Europe instead.
If American WNBA players begin openly wondering whether Europe is a better place to live than the United States in the longer term, then it’s fair to wonder whether some of their NBA counterparts may think so as well.
In the short term, the NBA will offer players more money and media exposure due to the current CBA. But without fans in arenas for the foreseeable future and more importantly, uncertainty around how the political environment is in the States, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a star player or two sign a contract for a team across the Atlantic, and stay there.
So here are my questions to you all, do you think Europe is a better place for American athletes not just short term, but longer term? And if that is the case, how do you think it will affect the NBA especially? Let us know in the comments below.