NBA Reportedly Hasn't Committed to Paying Players Beyond April 1 amid Hiatus

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder's Chris Paul plays against the Boston Celtics during an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March, 8, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The NBA will be paying its players April 1, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, but hasn't "committed yet" to doing so on April 15:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The NBA informed teams that league will provide "additional guidance" on the April 15 payment date, per memo today. Force Majeure language in CBA allows for a percentage of contracts to be withheld in extreme circumstances. It isn't a surprise NBA would wait on April 15 date. https://t.co/eTmCNL0UH5

As Wojnarowski reported last week, "The CBA includes a clause called the force majeure event clause that includes multiple dramatic scenarios—including epidemics—that the league could trigger in the event of a worst-case scenario. Other instances that could trigger the clause include natural disasters and war."

If that force majeure clause is exercised, "players lose 1/92.6 of their salary for every game missed."

The league went on hiatus Wednesday, March 11, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Commissioner Adam Silver said the next day that the hiatus would last for at least 30 days.  

That means the earliest date the league could potentially return to action would be April 11. But given that the CDC has recommended no public gatherings of 50 or more people—and that California governor Gavin Newsom issued a "stay at home" order for the state, a measure that could soon be adopted elsewhere—an April 11 return seems unlikely. 

The potential scale of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States remains unknown. But Brian M. Rosenthal, Joseph Goldstein and Michael Rothfeld of the New York Times reported Friday that "[New York] officials reported on Friday that the state was closing in on 8,000 positive tests, about half the cases in the country. The number was 10 times higher than what was reported earlier in the week."

And the logistics of NBA games going forward with less than 50 people in the arena seems near impossible—even with no fans in attendance—considering the players, coaches, medical staff and broadcast personnel involved. 

So Friday night's news from Woj could be an indication that the NBA is deciding whether to extend its hiatus, how much longer that potential hiatus could last, and how it might handle games after that date. Those conversations could include whether to shorten the remaining season or to push back the entire calendar and finish the season sometime in late August. 

It's also possible the league could cancel the remainder of the season. 

All of those potential outcomes will have financial implications for both the owners and players. The NBA has already expanded its credit line to $1.2 billion to "aid the league in handling its expenses through what is expected to be an extended shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic," per Woj

In other words, Friday's report could be seen as the NBA buying a bit more time to flesh out its next steps going forward.