Adam Silver Discusses NBA Campus Success, Critics of Racial Justice Advocacy

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Salt Lake City. The NBA announced that Salt Lake City has been selected to host the NBA All-Star Game in 2023. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the bubble concept in Orlando, Florida, has worked out better than anticipated.

In an interview with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Silver discussed the NBA campus and why he feels the players have embraced it in the manner they have:

"It's better than what we had envisioned. Players have taken to it in a more spirited way than we thought they would. We knew that this would require enormous sacrifice on everyone's part, but I think that what is hard to calibrate—and this maybe goes to my experience when I first came into the arena—is the human emotion that comes with being around other people. And I think everyone realized they missed it more than they even understood. There are players either whose teams are not participating, who were unable to engage this summer because of injuries or other issues, who, once they spoke to fellow NBA players, have asked to join the experience down in Orlando.

"I think that it's the togetherness, the camaraderie, the brotherhood of the players. That's been the case for the coaches, the team staff and management as well. To take those masks off and bang into each other, whether it's someone on your team or an opponent, it's just a human craving we have for contact with other people."

The players have seemingly bought into the bubble concept. No players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the resumption of the regular season, with the 2019-20 regular season set to come to an end Friday and the start of the playoffs Aug. 17.

Silver noted the NBA's ability to test players for COVID-19 daily without leaving the outside world with a shortage of tests was his biggest concern going into the bubble, but things have worked out well on that front thus far.

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The bubble hasn't been perfect, though, as Silver said he wished he could have figured out a way to get all 30 teams involved rather than just 22: "I'd say my biggest disappointment is that we couldn't find a sensible way to bring 30 teams down there. We know everything here involves compromises, but I do feel bad there are eight teams that are not part of the experience."

Aside from COVID-19 and the games, the biggest focus within the bubble has been on social justice. In an effort to provide players with a platform to protest, the NBA has allowed them to wear pre-approved social justice phrases on their jerseys.

Most players, coaches and staff members have knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest against racial injustice, social inequality and police brutality.

When asked about some of the outside criticism the NBA has received for the protests, Silver made it clear that he believes allowing players to demonstrate is the right thing to do:

"To be honest, it makes me uncomfortable. I understand critics who say that they turn to sports to avoid controversy. But it's unavoidable at this moment in time in our country. I wish there was an easier path for us to follow right now. Even if there were, I don't think it would necessarily be the responsible thing to do.

"I think our fans are able to separate words on the floor or messages on the players' jerseys or the floor. Even to the extent that they don't, I think they recognize that these are not simple times. Our players are not one-dimensional people, and they can both be deeply concerned about issues that our country faces and at the same time perform their craft at the highest level."

Assuming the bubble continues to be a success in terms of no players testing positive for COVID-19, the playoffs are set to end in October. At that point, the NBA will transition into the offseason with free agency and the draft.

There is still no set date for when the 2020-21 season will begin, but Silver divulged that the league is "deep" in the planning stages for holding next season inside the bubble.

Silver said doing the entire season in the bubble is far from a done deal, though, since the NBA's preference is to be able to play games at teams' home arenas with fans in attendance if possible.