The foul business of resuming the NBA

John Kennedy
Published in
6 min readJul 3, 2020


Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the NBA’s profit-minded pandemic push to the week in racism, from pop-culture picks to a must-read LEVEL story, it’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re loving what you’re reading, tell a friend to tell a friend.

Back in March, the NBA was ahead of the curve that epidemiologists wanted to flatten. The league suspended its 2019–2020 season indefinitely after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19 — a preemptive, example-setting move that made the pandemic feel a hell of a lot more real for many of us. Almost four months later (which feels like damn near 15), the country’s coronavirus situation is somehow worse than ever, yet the NBA is full-speed ahead with a planned relaunch of the season. Someone please make this bad idea make sense!

Much has changed since the league’s initial suspension. Masks (or lack thereof) have become symbols of fashion, protection and politics. Phrases like “the new normal” have taken over our cultural lexicon. What hasn’t changed, however, is our nation’s struggle response to this damn virus. This week marked the highest one-day tally of new coronavirus cases across the U.S. since the pandemic touched down in America. Several players, including Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and DeAndre Jordan (Brooklyn Nets), have tested positive for Covid ahead of the retooled season. Kyrie Irving spoke out against the relaunch, while Damian Lillard expressed skepticism. Still, as of now, NBA play is set to resume on July 30 in Orlando, Florida — a state that happens to be a Covid-19 hotspot, with confirmed cases more than doubling in June.

As much as we love roundball, and much as NBA2K20 just isn’t cutting it anymore, we can come up with exactly two convincing reasons to continue professional hoops: Give LeBron a chance to nab another championship ring, and give everyday folks an escape from the unrelenting fuckery that has been 2020. Both are valid, but neither are worth risking the health of the players — players who, might we add, are predominantly Black.

To the credit of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the league is taking what precautions it can. Gameplay will take place solely at Orlando’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, to avoid travel for participating teams (eight franchises have already been eliminated from competition). Fans will not be permitted to attend games. And there are a slew of health regulations in place. Silver has said the league is monitoring the national news and would halt if there are “a large number of cases” in the NBA community.

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But why roll the dice? Scientists are still learning about this pathogen, which has proven to be dangerous and highly contagious, even when people present no symptoms. Regular testing is no guaranteed safeguard against transmission — particularly with facility and hotel staff leaving the “bubble” when their shifts end. Despite Silver’s denials, this is a crucial reminder that for all the Association’s “Black Lives Matter” court painting and jersey customization, it’s a business, just like every other professional sport. (While Minor League Baseball has canceled its 2020 season due to logistics, the NFL is considering proceeding as normal for its upcoming season, fan attendance and all).

It’s all mind-boggling, but it really shouldn’t surprise us when our idiot-in-chief won’t even commit to wearing a facemask in public. Hopefully things go off without a hitch in the land of Disney — but from where we’re sitting, this shit is looking flagrantly foul.

— John Kennedy, senior editor

This Week in Racism

🗑 Soccer commentators refuse to let Americans have all the racist play-by-play

From MLB to NFL, sports fans are all too familiar with coded language commentators use to describe athletes. White folks are “blue-collar,” “intelligent,” “all about the fundamentals,” while Black players are “gifted athletes” and “natural speedsters.” According to a recent study examining 80 soccer telecasts from European leagues, it looks like footie announcers have their own version: they praise lighter-skinned players for their work ethic and darker-skinned players for their “pace and power.” Wait, you mean the sport where fans habitually tossed bananas onto the field to humiliate Black players might be racist? If you need us, we’ll be making our most surprised faces. 😐 (FiveThirtyEight)

🗑 In Racist Florida Man news, Florida man does a big ol’ racism

This one feels like a Mad Lib, honestly. An old White man was arrested in Miami-Dade County after yelling racist obscenities and waving a gun at a Black man whose mailbox said old White dude had just left a business card in. We don’t even need to point out that the White dude looks like Gary Busey after waking up from a nougat coma, do we? (NBC News)

🗑 That melted lump of cheddar in the White House isn’t even trying to disguise it anymore

Whoo, big week for your guy Donald Trump! First there was his retweeting a video of retirees jokingly yelling “White power!” Then there was…well, there was this.

Yes, your eyes are working. Over on — a real site, paid for by Trump’s own campaign and the Republican National Committee — you can buy the “America First” T-shirt. Which is an odd choice for a name, given that the Nazi Party quite literally did it first 87 years ago. Can’t wait to see what his dragon-energy bro Kanye has to say about it! (New York Times)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

📺 I May Destroy You

If you watched the British comedy Chewing Gum, you knew that creator/star Michaela Cole was on the verge of something truly great. That something is currently running on HBO. We don’t want to say too much about it, only that it’s very much not a comedy (though it does have laughs), deals with sexual assault differently than any other show we’ve seen, and will take you to some very uncomfortable places — in the best way. (HBO)

🎧 Jack Harlow feat. Tory Lanez, DaBaby, & Lil Wayne, “What’s Poppin (Remix)”

Today marks the release of Pop Smoke’s long-awaited Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, but while we’ve been waiting for that we’ve been giving this track serious burn. You know those remixes where everyone actually shows up with bars? Yeah, we almost forgot they existed too — after hearing Lanez, DaBaby, and Tunechi all show out, though, we’re believers again. (Spotify)

👕 “Fuck Akademiks” T-Shirt

Well, this escalated quickly! How’d we get here? Glad you asked: [deep breath], last week, Freddie Gibbs called his onetime label boss Jeezy “irrelevant,” which caused your friendly neighborhood troll DJ Akademiks to insert himself into the fray and cape for the Atlanta legend, redirecting the insult at Gibbs. A heated back-and-forth followed on social media — covering everything from net worth to home square footage to inexcusable homophobic accusations — but the jab that best landed for Gangsta Gibbs was a Photoshop job of Ak’s face on a Teletubby. Here, the meme is immortalized in cotton. (Good Crack)

LEVEL Read of the Week

The Man Whose Surveillance Camera Sparked a National Uprising

Minneapolis resident Rashad West went from hardworking teen to college athlete to restaurant owner by the age of 26. Then he singlehandedly proved that George Floyd was not resisting arrest — and turned the ember of rage over his killing into a firestorm. Read the story.

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John Kennedy
Writer for

Editor-in-Chief, LEVEL

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