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The NBA bubble in Orlando is coming. But is it actually gonna work?

Basketball fans are eagerly awaiting the NBA season’s restart.

The July 30th date cannot arrive soon enough for diehard fans and players alike. Teams are set to arrive in Orlando today, and training camps will begin Thursday morning.

The league released a detailed plan of action on June 26 addressing the safety protocols and the goal to promote social justice. Despite the best intentions of all parties, it remains unclear if this move will be a safe move forward in a pandemic-stricken nation.

Orlando COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in the past two weeks. After seeing a gradual increase in the early months of June, daily cases suddenly exploded to 9,585 on June 27. The numbers rose to 11,458 over the holiday weekend, and have lowered to 6,336 as of yesterday.

“I think they’re making a good-faith effort,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Hotez.

“It’s just that the risk of doing this in an area where cases are climbing is a lot higher than it would be in a place where you don’t have much COVID transmission.”

The case numbers are extremely unpredictable, and can see a sharp spike at any given time. Health officials have not been able to find a concrete solution, as the numbers only grew following the nationwide lockdown.

From the league’s own mouth, a rigorous program has been established in order to prevent the risk of spread, including daily testing and temperature screenings.

However, these efforts can only go so far due to the contagious nature of the virus. If a single player were to test positive, all people within his immediate point of contact would be at risk.

Furthermore, it must be noted that this is mainly a move of financial security. While the league clearly wants its players and fans to enjoy quality play during self-quarantine, they are primarily securing their financial investments.

The league earns money primarily through merchandising, television rights, and ticket sales. According to Forbes, the league earned a total revenue of $8 billion in 2018. Each team is worth around $1.9 billion, approximately three times the valuation from 2014.

The NBA broadcasts 277 regular-season games every year. Rich contracts are inked with national networks, including Disney’s ESPN, Warner Media’s TNT, and ABC.

Both TNT and ESPN resigned their deals in 2018 for $24 billion in total value. Local television contracts also gross between $120 and $150 million each year.

Jersey sales earn each team about $9.3 million each year, not including t-shirts, hoodies, and other merchandise. Individual team arena sponsorships net a heavy check each season as well.

The 2015 8-year, $1 billion contract the league made with Nike is one of the prime sources of sponsorship income.

With the ban of fans from stadiums, the NBA must rely heavily on TV advertisements and merchandising in order to profit this season. They want to make certain that every household has their eyes glued on the screen for each game, absorbing the advertisements and sponsorship content.

The league is doing this at the risk of player and personnel safety, unfortunately. They must put bodies in harm’s way to profit, as well as promoting the idea that superstars are leaving the safety of their homes to go hoop.

Social justice promotion and clothing is one of the NBA’s ideas for revenue and player appease. According to ESPN, social justice messages such as “Power to the People”, “Hear Us”, “Equality,” and “Peace” have been approved to grace the back of players’ jerseys.

“A shared goal of our season restart will be to use our platform in Orlando to bring attention to these important issues of social justice,” said Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.

The opportunity to shed light on these issues is something that players and league leaders are taking very seriously. Several players take these issues just as importantly, if not more importantly than the continuation of play itself.

“We’re just trying to continue to shed light on the different social justice issues that guys around our league continue to talk about day in and day out,” said Oklahoma City guard and NBPA president Chris Paul.

“People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”

This opportunity is a way for the players to put their own touch on the league’s financially-centered return. Despite the safety concerns and cash-craze that the league is dancing with, player leaders are finding a way to put a positive and useful spin on their work.

The representation of these leaders on television is an important message and voice for the nation as the pandemic continues its destruction.

We will be tuning in for the league’s return on July 30th, even though that’s exactly what they want us to do.

We will not be doing it for financial reasons though; we will be doing it to watch the game we love and to support the leaders in their mission.