NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined ESPN's Mike Greenberg as part of the network's The Return of Sports special that featured interviews with commissioners of the country's major sports leagues, and he opened up on a number of topics, including the NBA's plan to resume the season in Orlando, Florida.
"I can only say, it may not be for everyone," Silver said of the return-to-play plan as players debate whether they will play amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with the national focus on systemic racism and police brutality (h/t Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle). "It's not an ideal situation."
Silver acknowledged going to Florida and isolating in a campus-like environment away from families while there is so much attention on societal issues will "entail enormous sacrifice," adding "I don't want to sugarcoat it."
He also said he understands if some players are not comfortable coming back and stressed the fact the league will "accept" whatever decision individual players make as the NBA approaches its targeted return date of July 30.
The interview came after Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews of ESPN reported Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley organized a coalition of players to provide a voice for those who are concerned about returning and may not feel comfortable publicly speaking out.
Irving and Bradley helped organize player calls on Friday and Monday to discuss issues such as how much attention will be taken away from the fight against racism and police brutality if the season resumes and what type of insurance and liability will be in place in case players become sick or injured.
Silver recognized those concerns and suggested a return to play would present an "opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to these issues because the world's attention will be on the NBA."
He also pointed to the amount of media attention a resumed season would draw and said it would give players even larger platforms to fight for the societal changes they are driving toward.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard joined the interview and agreed that returning would give players a bigger platform but pointed out many are not thinking as much about basketball at the current moment. He specifically mentioned Irving, saying he agreed with many of the points the Nets point guard raised.
As for playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lillard said, "I don't feel 100 percent comfortable, but it's a risk that I'm willing to take."
The NBA season has been suspended since March 11, and Silver admitted he never thought the league would have been away this long when he made the decision to pause play at the time.
"It's been incredibly tough for everyone involved," he said.