A common approach professional sports organizations have used during this world wide pandemic has been the bubble. The NBA bubble took all the athletes and placed them in a Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida. They lived in the hotel where food was provided for them and they played at the stadium there. No one was allowed in or out of the bubble. Some chose not to be part of the bubble and their seasons ended. When Michael Conley’s wife was going to have a baby he had to get special permission to leave the bubble to be there. A Houston Rockets player was actually kicked out of the bubble and the remaining post-season for allowing an “unauthorized guest” into the bubble.
In order to protect the players and make the basketball season happen, the NBA has been very strict about their bubble. Even so, it hasn’t stopped play from being interrupted. The players have repeatedly protested events happening outside the bubble. At one point the entire season was to be cancelled over social unrest around the country that many players wanted to show solidarity with. But play resumed because of money, players would have had to refund 15 percent of their salary and it could have nullified the collective bargaining agreement leading to huge pay cuts next season.
While the bubble has worked in keeping the pandemic away from the players the other bubble is also working.
The other bubble is the one that leads players to think alike and doesn’t allow for dissenting or disagreeing voices to be heard. Within the NBA there is a bubble that lacks diversity of thought. The protests and the language used by players is a exhibits this lack of diversity.
We covered it extensively here the disconnect between what is demanded by athletes and coaches of the NBA over civil unrest and the truth. There is a logically fallacy in what Doc Rivers says and what he wants. Most of the recent protests are based on conspiracy theories that are promulgated by James, Rivers and other athletes. Theories like James expressed, that police officers will wake up planning to shoot a black man because they are having a bad day. Or Rivers who makes the false claim that random black man are just being shot on the street going about their daily lives. Or other athletes that have claimed “genocide” of black men.
These are conspiracy theories. But since the bubble exists there is no way for the theories to be checked. When it comes to the social unrest in America over race, the truth of the situations is covered very little but the reaction to the situation is covered non-stop. A narrative is drawn that all police officers are racists and that black people are in immediate danger from them. With this narrative being allowed to run rampant through certain segments of the American population it’s no wonder police officers are being shot execution style.
These acts of violence are met with silence from the bubble.
The bubble is quick to condemn police shootings of black men with only 8 seconds of video. But the bubble has nothing to say about the businesses being destroyed. They don’t have anything to say about the lives being lost because of political leanings or the police officers being killed because of the theories these athletes perpetuate.
The bubble is dangerous. But the bubble seems to be what Americans live in. Each American can surround themselves with only like people. The NBA is a prime example. The NBA is 77 percent black, far higher than their national percentage. Most of the players have similar backgrounds and upbringing as well as political leaning. The NBA also has a big microphone, with television and reporters relaying all they say with no challenge to their views.
The protests are very partisan politically. But that’s how the NBA is. The NBA is very left-leaning politically. Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA has given exclusively to the Democrats since 2004. Silver’s predecessor, David Stern, too gave a lot of money to Democrats. Gregg Popovich, though he resides in a very red state, has given about $50,000 in political donations. They have been entirely to Democrats.
Regularly owners are made out to be rich Republicans, there aren’t many NBA owner that give exclusively to Republican causes. For example, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has given over $33,000 to the Republican National Committee. But he also gave to every states Democratic Party in 2016. There are many examples of mixtures of those giving to both conservative and liberal organizations. There are some owners, the Timberwolves, Pelican and Magic owners who give exclusively to Republicans. However there are far more like Pistons owner, Tom Gores, who only gives to Democrats or Lakers owner Jeannie Buss who has given exclusively to Democrats since 2008.
The Milwaukee Bucks were the team to set the tone of protest in the bubble. They refused to play their Game 5 against the Orlando Magic just days after the Jacob Blake shooting. Blake was shot a few miles away from Milwaukee. But as the BLM and protest have been largely politically partisan, a look at the decision makers of the Bucks political thoughts matters. The Bucks are owned by Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens. Both owners spend a lot of money in politics, exclusively to Democrats.
The Bubble of the NBA lacks diversity of thought in the political realm. The decision makers all lean one way. From the Commissioner to the most important owners to the star players, all of those that speak for and make decisions for the NBA think similarly on key issues and agree with most of the political messaging. They align themselves with preventing the reelection of President Trump. Which casts a new light on their demands.
To resume games after the Bucks refused to play the NBA and players union issued a statement. One of the demands was to convert arenas into voting centers. They also tried to demand quicker action by local governments against police officers. As well as a social justice commission and more air time for social justice messaging. If one looks at this skeptically, the NBA tries to further its political goals based on the bubbles political leanings.
It is the job of journalists to stop this kind of blatant partisanship. Or at least call it what it is. But the sports news world has been as celebratory as the players. Probably because even the journalists who cover the NBA live in this bubble.
The most shocking example was after Doc Rivers famous press conference about the Jacob Blake shooting. He said things that were blatantly partisan and false and not a single reporter followed up. Not a single reporter, then or now, challenged him. In contrast some sports reporters got on television the next day and double down on what he said.
The COVID bubble may have saved the 2020 season. But I fear the other bubble is dooming the NBA. Though COVID has led to a craving for sports, NBA viewership is down and politics is the reason. In a time when sports ought to be thriving, the NBA is driving more and more of their fans away. But their bubble doesn’t allow them to even know these people who are turned off by their actions. The bubble has closed them off from those that differ with them politically or see the world differently. It is this bubble that the NBA ought to be working on, but they seem unconcerned.