It is good NBA players, teams are stepping in, but don’t judge their delay

Mohamed Bamba is the first Orlando Magic player to publicly say he will donate to support arena and part-time workers during the NBA's hiatus. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Mohamed Bamba is the first Orlando Magic player to publicly say he will donate to support arena and part-time workers during the NBA's hiatus. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

It is fantastic to see NBA teams and players giving back to arena workers during the league’s hiatus. But don’t judge any delay as they get their feet set.

The NBA’s sudden decision to suspend its regular season for what looks to be at least 30 days is still a shock to the system. It still feels odd not to have basketball games on a nightly basis — or any sports right now.

The move was 100-percent necessary. In the midst of a pandemic, having mass gatherings of tens of thousands of people creates a petri dish with the potential to spread the coronavirus to different social circles and even throughout the globe. Cutting off one of the potential ways for this disease to continue spreading is vital in the fight to slow it down.

COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes, is not particularly fatal although it is severe. If you are young and in good health, by all accounts, it will feel like a very severe flu before it works its way out of your system. But to those with heightened risk factors, poor health or weakened immune systems, the disease is indeed potentially fatal.

It bears repeating: Everyone should be taking precautions to keep themselves and their communities healthy. Wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you sneeze (and wash your hands after once you do), avoid touching your face and stay home if you are feeling sick.

The league clearly made their business and economic concerns a secondary interest once it was clear the virus was in their home with multiple players getting the infection.

That has real consequences for real people.

In Orlando especially (but certainly not exclusively), the coronavirus pandemic is going to have a massive effect on the economy. The theme parks, which are the lifeblood of Central Florida’s economy, are closed starting Sunday through the end of the month.

The collateral damage of the league shutting its doors even for 30 days are the arena, seasonal and part-time workers who make games such a fun, entertaining and enjoyable experience. They are paid hourly or by game and have lost vital income.

The league has slowly started doing its part to take care of these workers and try to provide for that part of their family. Several players — starting with Kevin Love and continuing with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamsonhave pledged their own money to take care of these arena workers during the time the league is shut down.

Add Mohamed Bamba to the list of players making that pledge. He tagged his teammates Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz to join the pledge:

Team owners and teams themselves have also led this pledge.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said immediately on the ESPN broadcast after the suspension was announced that he would be taking care of arena workers who would lose income from lost games. Brooklyn Nets Joe Tsai promised he would come up with a plan to support arena workers after some public prodding from Spencer Dinwiddie. The Golden State Warriors have also pledged to support arena workers.

The Milwaukee Bucks promised to match the donation from Antetokounmpo and his teammates. And lots of other teams have also made this pledge.

The Orlando Magic are included in that group.

During a press conference Thursday, CEO Alex Martins said the team had provided some relief to arena and part-time workers with the team during the lockout in 2011. They would implement a similar plan in the wake of this suspension.

Those are the only details the team has released at this point. Mohamed Bamba is the only player who has announced any type of donation.

It is absolutely fantastic that teams and players are stepping up to contribute to the staff that makes their games go. These are tough times for everyone and these players have the means to support their communities. It is great to see them do so.

But there has been a sore underbelly to all this. Now that some players have stepped up with contributions and details, inevitably everyone is going to compare those plans or wonder why some choose to be silent.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Everyone has seemingly received some criticism for not publicly stepping up to make a pledge.

Fans have criticized the DeVos family for their silence on this matter, even though Martins essentially speaks for them on every matter involving the team as the team’s public-facing de facto chairman as team CEO.

There have been criticisms levied at Nikola Vucevic, the team’s highest-paid player for not making some kind of announcement either and joining the cavalcade of players making a pledge to support arena workers.

Likely these criticisms are couched in other dissatisfactions with their status with the team. It is easy to project those onto this situation.

But it is also fair to say that with those who have a lot, a lot is expected. You would hope to hear more directly from the DeVos family, even though Martins is essentially their day-to-day stand-in for the team. And Vucevic, as a team leader, could make some performative action if he intends to make a donation at all.

But here, I would ask everyone to take a deep breath. There is still time for those who have not spoken publicly to speak publicly on what they plan to do and how they hope to help. It is not time to point fingers or publicly shame someone for not making a public act of charity.

Everyone around the league is still getting a grip on what this suspension means and how to handle themselves while the league is on hiatus. Public showings of generosity are great. But they are not the only way players will show their support.

For the Magic specifically, their plan and how much they can donate or the mechanism through which they can donate to arena workers is likely complicated by the fact the city owns and operates the building. Making sure the donations get to the right people is complicated by that extra step.

Players all have their own way of doing charitable work. Some do it publicly, others do it quietly. And everyone it seems recognizes the importance of providing for those that have lost an important piece of their income, especially in a world of millionaires and billionaires.

We are still in the beginning stages of this hiatus. Everyone who is choosing to donate is likely still mapping out how they want to give back.

For now, let’s celebrate that so many in the NBA and the Orlando Magic recognize this need and are finding a way to give back. And let’s recognize that not all of this work will be public.

There is still time for those who have not spoken to speak either through their words or through their actions. Let’s not jump to judgments or let anything else cloud the necessary aid that is taking place.

Next. Before suspension, Orlando Magic were making their push. dark

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.