Report: NBA to Use Law Enforcement, Ex-Special Forces to Enforce Restart Bubble

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2020

In this Sunday, April 7, 2019, photo, Oracle Arena security guard Curtis Jones passes a basketball from the court to Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry in the players' entrance tunnel prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Oakland, Calif. Stephen Curry's pregame tunnel heaves have become such a spectacle at Oracle Arena hundreds of cameras raise in the air to capture the moment.
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The NBA reportedly informed the league's players Thursday that it will use "local, state and federal law enforcement, plus former special operations forces, to secure the bubble in Orlando," Florida, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. 

The NBA will hold a 22-team season restart at the Walt Disney World Resort, starting in late July, with the players being quarantined from the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bontemps also reported that "social media networks will be monitored by Walt Disney Security, NBA Global Security and the Department of Homeland Security for potential threats, and will share intelligence."

Additionally, Bontemps reported that "league security will ensure all venues and team hotel campuses are closed to non-credentialed individuals, and there will be secure checkpoints, credential control and roving security inside and outside the perimeter of every location that is visited."

And Orange and Osceola County Sheriff's Offices will have guards stationed at team hotels and arenas, while the Florida Highway Patrol "will escort team buses to and from games."

The social distancing rules within the bubble the NBA is hoping to create are extensive. Here is a sampling of what life inside the bubble will look like once the scrimmages and games begin:

  • No fans in attendance for games.
  • Coronavirus testing every night.
  • No licking fingers during practice or games.
  • Meals with players from other teams is permitted if those players eat outside. 
  • Designated areas for social gatherings.
  • Players are not allowed inside other players' hotel rooms.
  • Players who choose to leave the bubble will be subject to additional testing and a quarantine period upon their return. 
  • Five-step process for disinfecting basketballs before use. 
  • No jersey swaps after games.
  • Congregating outside rather than inside is encouraged.

While it is obviously important to have security to maintain outsiders from entering the bubble without permission, the optics of using law enforcement at a time when marches and gatherings are happening around the country to protest both systemic racism and police brutality—protests that many NBA players have joined—will raise eyebrows.

Haley O'Shaughnessy @HaleyOSomething

using law enforcement in this moment to "protect" a majority black league is so tone deaf. there is no bubble if disney employees are allowed to come and go without testing, why is the league pretending by adding cops to the situation https://t.co/4kKdPqPJuD

Dan Devine @YourManDevine

I get that local law enforcement/private firms typically handle arena security. It'll just be very interesting to see how this goes over with a predominantly Black player populace in the wake of huge national protests of police brutality in which players continue to participate. https://t.co/Ph62GqJXhL

Jasmyn Wimbish @JasmynWimbish

"When the [bubble idea] was first floated, there was some consternation. Are we going to arm guards around the hotel? That sounds like incarceration to me." NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said that in May. https://t.co/lsDyv7OTsG

The COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that any return to play would happen on unprecedented and highly regulated terms. Nonetheless, it seems like the NBA's choice of law enforcement for security will at the very least remain a point of conversation heading into the restart.