NBA has detailed plan for Disney relaunch

Dave Uram
June 17, 2020 - 11:18 am
A sign at the entrance to ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World is seen Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla.

John Raoux/AP Photo

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — If the NBA is able to restart its season in late July with 22 teams, including the 76ers, as it's hoping to do, the health and safety protocols for the Disney World campus will be extensive.

According to the Associated Press, the league released a 108-page memo on Tuesday that includes policy on testing, arrival dates, on-campus rules, practice/training availabilities, games, traveling parties, hotels, food and amenities.

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“It’s a little bit of a misnomer to call it a bubble because it’s a campus with varying levels of protection depending on the proximity to the players and the people in their immediate vicinity,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Monday night on ESPN.

Testing will happen frequently, everyone must practice social distancing and following mask-wearing policies.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association created these protocols while getting guidance from the nation’s leading health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci recently told the Stadium sports network, “I actually have looked at that plan and it is really quite creative.”

The players will have access to such vacation-like amenities as game rooms, golf course access, cabanas with misters to combat the heat, fishing areas, bowling, backstage tours and salon services.

“It’s something that I think is a sound plan,” Fauci said. “I was very pleased to see that the intent was not reckless at all. They really wanted to make sure that the safety of the players and the people associated with the players was paramount.”

NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts said, “My confidence, it didn't exist at the beginning of this virus, because I was so frightened by it. Now having lived, and breathed, and suffered through the hours and hours of understanding the virus, and listening to our experts, and comparing different alternative protocols, I can't even think of anything else we could do short of hermetically seal the players that would keep them safe."

If someone tests positive for the coronavirus, the league will not need to shut down as it did in March.

Some Disney staffers will be entering and leaving the campus but won’t be around the players. Other Disney employees will be, but precautions are in place to minimize the chance of a positive COVID-19 test.

“We’re gonna be daily testing,” Silver said on ESPN. “I think that’s one of the best safeguards for them. Of course, if we do get a positive test, we’ll be very specifically tracing exactly what context those people had, and then ... we’ll be isolating anybody who tests positive.” 

The rate of positive coronavirus tests in the Orlando area has gone up. 

“No one is suggesting that this is going to be an infection-free, guaranteed environment. I guess, unless we go to ... well, where would we go? What state has the lowest rate? There's just no way of finding a sterile environment probably on this planet, but certainly, not in this country," Roberts said. 

She isn’t surprised by the numbers. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was one of the first to re-open his state during the pandemic. 

“I've watched this governor behave as if the virus is an inconvenience as opposed to a virus," Roberts said. "So, I guess watching the way the state is adhering or not adhering to CDC guidelines, it's not surprising that these numbers would go up."

DeSantis believes Florida’s recent numbers are because of more testing and other reasons.

But the hope is, with the extensive safety procedures in place by the NBA, a spread won’t occur.

"These protocols are designed to promote prevention and mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, the coronavirus," the league said. "However, it is possible that staff, players, or other participants in the resumption of the 2019-20 season nonetheless may test positive or contract the coronavirus."

Players will have the chance to wear a “proximity alarm” that will sound off when someone is within six feet of them for more than five seconds. They can also wear a ring that can monitor things such as temperature and respiratory and heart rate.

In addition to safety, the NBA has addressed the growing social issues that are occurring globally.

Some players have expressed concern that re-starting the season will take attention away from the fight against racial injustice.

Former player and NBA champion Stephen Jackson, a friend of George Floyd, believes now is not the time for basketball.

“We have to take advantage of this moment,” Jackson told Stadium. “How long are we going to put other things more important than humanity? How long are we going to put more things more material things than games and stuff more important than people?”

Jackson added, “This moment in change we have to take advantage of and I think everybody have to really, really  think about it and understand what moment we in. This has to happen now or we gonna be dealing with this for another 500 years.”

Silver says he respects that point of view, but he believes relaunching the season will be a tremendous avenue for players to bring awareness to these issues.

“The platform that this league has is an enormous global platform, and incidentally you see on the news these George Floyd protests are happening all over the world,” Silver said during a roundtable on the NBA’s Twitter account. “It’s not just the United States. And the NBA has, for example, a social media platform that reaches 1.8 billion people around the world.

“And just turning back to the United States, if we’re able to relaunch our league — and, as I said, there’s a lot of issues to work through — but my sense is there’ll be enormous attention focused on the league and the players down in Orlando, and  media will be included, and they will have that platform.”

NBA icon Magic Johnson agreed with Silver on the roundtable.

“Going back to play basketball is not gonna stop the protests,” Johnson said. “I think it can give it some more even juice.”

Johnson says the Black Lives Matter movement will continue.

“You have to remember, this is a worldwide movement, and so nothing’s gonna stop. It will continue and then, when the guys are there, let’s get together, huddle up. Let’s plan something really strong, so when we’re done — Adam, the players, Michele Roberts, everybody can stand there and say, ‘Hey, this is what we decided to do, and it’s gonna bring real change in the inner cities and urban America. Where we live, where we play, this is gonna bring some real change.’ That’s what I would love to see happen. 

“I’m so passionate about this I’m going crazy right now,” Johnson said with a huge smile.

If a player decides not go to Orlando, Silver told ESPN Monday, “We also have an arrangement with the Players Association where if a player choses not to come it’s not a breach of his contract. We accept that.”

That applies health, social or any other reason. While a player won’t be disciplined, there’s a chance some salary could be lost.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.