NBA union boss: Players want return but need certainty

NEW YORK, USA – NBA players overwhelmingly want to resume the 2019-2020 season but "need some level of certainty" in a comeback plan, players' union executive director Michele Roberts says.

The National Basketball Players Association boss told ESPN in a report Tuesday, May 26, that most players support the idea of resuming a campaign shut down in March by the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's time," Roberts told ESPN. "It has been 2 1/2 months of 'What if?' My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does."

The NBA, whose players are conducting individual workouts at team facilities where allowed, is exploring a plan to resume the season in late July at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, although final details of a plan have yet to be determined.

The league and union have been in talks about a resumption of the NBA season and Roberts says she plans to speak with players on all 30 teams over the next week to inform players about the plans' safety measures to prevent players from becoming infected and what would happen if a player does catch the deadly virus.

"Our guys need to know," Roberts said. "Certainty will be good. But the players really want to play."

NBA team owners plan a conference call Friday that could reveal more details about COVID-19 safeguards and a full return plan.

Roberts said the union would not necessarily need to vote upon any comeback strategy.

"If we thought we needed a vote, we would," Roberts said. "But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is, then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out."

MLB, NFL union bosses expect returns

Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League (NFL) players union leaders also say it's likely the leagues they deal with will return in some fashion this year after being shut down for the coronavirus pandemic.

But nothing is settled for any of the 3 biggest North American sports leagues and "certainty" on safety issues remains a major concern for those who will risk their health to play while trying to avoid contracting the virus.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark expressed confidence on their league comeback.

Asked to rank the chances for leagues to return in 2020 from 1-10 with 10 being certain of a comeback, Clark gave the MLB's chances an 8 1/2 with Roberts saying 6 for the NBA and Smith giving the NFL a 6-7 range.

"It was probably an 8 last week," Roberts said in a conference call with HBO for interviews airing Thursday, May 28.

"I've gotten some recent concerns expressed by players now that babies (and) children have been infected, so heightened concerns have come into the conversation."

NFLPA eyes other unions

The MLBPA's Clark had more confidence than his counterparts but still needed answers to some major issues.

"I remain optimistic," Clark said. "We don't know everything we want to know and how things are continuing to change, but I do remain optimistic we'll get back out there and play."

The NFL has announced a full schedule to commence September 10 but all eyes will be on what moves the other leagues and unions make before the NFL is scheduled to launch its season.

Smith said the NFL's chances of playing could hinge on how other sports perform.

"A lot depends on what happens with the other sports. And to say that we aren't looking at what's going to be happening in basketball and baseball... I'd be lying to you if we're not," he said. –