NBPA executive director Michele Roberts: Bubble may be only way to safely play 2020-21 season

Ryan Young
·Writer
·4-min read

The NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World was only meant to be a temporary solution for the league to finish the 2019-20 campaign amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

While it seems to be going smoothly so far, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts knows that the bubble may be the only legitimate way for the league to hold next season, too.

“If tomorrow looks like today, I don't know how we say we can do it differently,” Roberts said on Tuesday, via ESPN. “If tomorrow looks like today, and today we all acknowledge — and this is not Michele talking, this is the league, together with the PA and our respective experts saying, ‘This is the way to do it’ — then that's going to have to be the way to do it.”

‘I’m not in the Trump camp’

The coronavirus pandemic is still raging throughout the United States, more than six months after it first reached the country.

There were more than 4.3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country as of Tuesday night, according to The New York Times, and nearly 150,000 deaths attributed to it. The country has averaged more than 65,000 new cases each day over the past week, and more than 1,000 deaths each day.

The NBA has said that it hopes to start the 2020-21 season in December, though nothing is set in stone.

While Roberts knows a lot can change by then, she’s also aware that the coronavirus isn’t just going to disappear overnight — a false theory President Donald Trump has pushed repeatedly. And as long as it’s still around, a bubble may be the only option.

“I'm not in the Trump camp in believing it's all going to go away in two weeks, but I'm praying, praying that there will be a different set of circumstances that will allow us to play in a different way,” Roberts said, via ESPN. “But because I don't know, all I know is what I know now. So it may be that, if the bubble is the way to play, then that is likely gonna be the way we play next season, if things remain as they are.

“I hope not. Because I'd like to think that people can live with their families. But I can only comment on what I know, and what I know is right now.”

‘You can’t incarcerate people’

The NBA bubble, so far, is working.

The league’s safety protocols and tip line have placed players who have violated rules back into quarantine, and — so far — there hasn’t been a positive case within the Disney campus.

And compared to Major League Baseball’s issues — the league has seen a massive outbreak this week, primarily within the Miami Marlins organization, while trying to play games in team’s respective home cities — the bubble appears to be the best way to play sports safely. Roberts is very content with the setup upon her arrival in Florida, too, despite her initial concerns.

Whether that’s feasible over the span of an entire season in the same location, however, remains to be seen.

"I was worried that it was going to appear a little too much like an armed camp," Roberts said, via ESPN. "I really was. I said, 'Look. You can't incarcerate people. Even if it's a pretty prison, if it's a prison, it's still a prison.'

"But having gotten here, sure there's some things [that you have to do] — having to take your temperature, and the testing. But it could not be easier … I am completely satisfied that we've come up with the right protocol. Nothing is perfect, and knock on wood every day and cross my fingers every day that no one has gotten infected since we've been here. But this is clearly, we've happened upon the way to play. And the players are largely cool with it."

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