The NBA is moving forward with its scheduled restart in Orlando on July 30, even as COVID-19 cases swell in Florida and players are opting to stay home. This is in part because the league, and commissioner Adam Silver specifically, still believe the “campus environment” they will create at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando is safer than just about any other option.
Speaking on a virtual panel with TIME on Tuesday, Silver said, “We’re going to see as we go. Certainly, if we have a lot of cases, we’re going to stop. You cannot run from this virus. I am absolutely convinced that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus, because there aren’t many other situations I’m aware of where there’s mass testing of asymptomatic employees. So in some ways this is maybe a model for how other industries ultimately open.”
The quote was from a wide-ranging interview about the NBA’s restart, its stance on social justice, its relationship with China, and generally how sport will function during a pandemic.
— TIME (@TIME) June 30, 2020
This is clearly an optimistic perspective, but it has merit. Many other industries are asking people to return to work in far less safe circumstances, and while the NBA is far less “essential” than these other industries, it is a massive business in this country and likely will need to learn to cope with the pandemic in its own way. Because of the financial capital at its disposal, the NBA can afford, despite its inessential nature, to create a system that is about as safe as is feasible right now.
The NBA is not, however, going forward without recourse. Silver knows the whole thing has the potential to fall apart if even a single crack appears.
“[It’s] never ‘full steam no matter what,” Silver said. “One thing we’re learning about this virus is that much is unpredictable.”