For the last several months, we’ve been in this reality where there is basically no professional sports to talk or write about while the United States and the rest of the world work around the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, numerous WNBA players, including Mystics players publicly tweeted that they are heading to their league’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida.
Well this is going to be the weirdest season ever... Off to Florida! #BubbleLife— Emma Meesseman (@EmmaMeesseman) July 6, 2020
From there, the two teams will be at camp and they will resume playing games. The Mystics begin their season on July 24 where their schedule is still yet to be determined. The Wizards will begin play on July 31 against the Phoenix Suns at 4 p.m. ET.
I was never on board with the NBA and WNBA resuming or starting their seasons, respectively. I honestly wished that they would have taken the lead and cancelled all games in the name of player, coach and public safety. I realize that dollars have to be made and measures have to be taken to resume operations while minimizing risk to the extent possible, but even then, the leagues didn’t do a very good job, even without hindsight.
First, both leagues are playing in the state of Florida, where the state is experiencing record numbers of new cases across the region. Miami Beach, the city where South Beach is, closed down beaches, and Miami itself shut down dine-in restaurants again. Many people were out and about nationwide during Fourth of July Weekend and by the end of this month, or when the NBA and WNBA are supposed to be starting play, it wouldn’t shock me to see the entire state under a new shelter-in-place order as hospitals get overwhelmed.
The NBA and WNBA chose to resume play in Florida, partly because the facilities were there to house a “bubble.” But these “bubbles” are also in localities led by politicians who aren’t taking the virus seriously. And that is enabled by a federal government that would rather see short-term dollars over saving lives (and making more dollars in the long-term).
As leagues that are perceived to be “ahead of the curve” on many things, especially social issues like the movement to end systemic racism, they’re doing great. But on coronavirus management? I’m very disappointed.
The leagues could have, and should have considered playing in other countries. The European Union’s Schengen Area has banned Americans from coming into the country because they fear those stateside “are the virus.” The data shows that Americans figuratively are, which is embarrassing. So I don’t think any country there from Ireland to Germany and Latvia would have wanted to house “American sports in exile” because of the virus.
But perhaps closer to home, Canada could have provided these bubble environments given that their response was much more aggressive last spring, and that’s why they are no longer banned from the Schengen Area as of last July. The Toronto Raptors play in Canada and an environment there would have been MUCH better than here in the USA. I get that there’s no WNBA team in Canada, but I think the country could have seen a boost of interest nevertheless with a bubble there.
Given how far the NBA and WNBA have gone to plan their seasons, I don’t see them doing an about face. They’ve already hit the “point of no return” when it comes to venue. At this point, as I’ve feared for the last two months, I just hope that we don’t see athletes or staff members get the coronavirus AND have to get on a ventilator in the intensive care unit ... or die.
I get that this piece sounds like fear mongering. To some extent, it is, because the United States quite frankly isn’t in a position to have professional sports going on. Yes, Korea and the EU resumed some sports. But again, they’ve handled the virus effectively, the USA hasn’t. And I’m certainly not the only one who has openly talked about “what if” situations if someone in the NBA or WNBA got the coronavirus and had serious complications:
Apologies for the cynicism, but I’m genuinely curious. What would need to happen for the NBA and MLB to cancel their seasons?— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) July 5, 2020
The incapacitation or death of a professional athlete or a coach from this could be what it takes for the leagues to cancel midway through this bubble. And though I’ll always be a basketball fan, I will also admit that it would be a major PR hit that would be very tough to recover from.