On Saturday afternoon buried between two NFL Wildcard Playoff games on national television, the Philadelphia 76ers allowed a roster depleted by COVID-19 to face off against the Denver Nuggets. The 7 Sixers present for the game were: Isaiah Joe, Tyrese Maxey, Dakota Mathias, Danny Green, and Dwight Howard with Paul Reed and Tony Bradley coming off the bench.
In 2020 the NBA ran a successful half-season and playoff tournament in an isolated bubble with meticulous coronavirus protocol. After the bubble season ended, the NBA received a “pat on the back” for a successful season and their responsible decisions to cancel games and take COVID seriously. Here a Mother Jones article titled “Congratulations, NBA” highlights that the NBA “successfully prevented even a single player from becoming infected.”
But what happened? Why wasn’t there a second bubble? Why am I supposed to pretend that watching Isaiah Joe and Dakota Mathias play 40+ minutes of NBA basketball is normal?
More importantly, how on Earth were the 76ers allowed to play? Danny Green, Dakota Mathias, Dwight Howard, Tyrese Maxey, and Isaiah Joe all played in the January 7th game against the Brooklyn Nets with the four players who were ruled out by the NBA Health & Safety protocol. These people have all clearly been in contact with each other.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers told Derek Bodner of The Athletic “I don’t think we should (play). But it’s not for me to express that. I do worry about our player health.”
The four players ruled out due to COVID protocol were: Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Mattisse Thybulle, and Vincent Poirier; plus Seth Curry who tested positive for COVID.
At the end of the day the disastrous Nuggets vs. Sixers game was an athletic spectacle for all to watch, much like the Broncos vs. Saints game in November of 2020 where the Broncos had no quarterback due to COVID. As a sports fan, I enjoy the freak shows that irresponsibility on behalf of the multi-million dollar corporations that run America’s sports industry provide, but at the same time the NBA needs to be scolded for essentially giving up on player safety in the name of money and freedom.
The Bigger Picture
The NBA was a beacon of responsibility within a country devoid of trust and leadership. Unfortunately America’s political environment is so stupid and fractured that more and more, the American public is turning towards the private sector for leadership. Many remember the NBA cancelling it’s games in March as a sign that the coronavirus was to be taken seriously. Now without a bubble, what message is the NBA sending?
In January of 2021, the coronavirus is arguably worse than it has ever been yet rather than returning to a bubble the NBA players and personnel are flying across the country day in and day out to play regular season games in empty stadiums. They gave up.
Just like the NFL, just like the people in your life who won’t quarantine because its too hard, the NBA gave up. With few role models or examples of good behavior left in America, the NBA exposed themselves by refusing to go back into a bubble – they’d rather take the NFL’s approach of fumbling through a season and pretending everything is fine.
Similar to the Mother Jones article congratulating the NBA for their accomplishments in the bubble, ESPN anchors praised the NFL for never cancelling a regular season game – despite numerous COVID outbreaks and postponements that the NFL underwent.
The bar has been lowered. If the NBA will allow Seth Curry to get COVID, why wouldn’t your employer allow the same thing to happen to you? Professional athletes are the only Americans with dignity or power in their employment situation left and even their asses are hung out to dry in the midst of a mismanaged pandemic.