NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league's current hiatus will last at least 30 days as the sports world continues to work through the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The sudden suspension of play has left NBA players with a lot of difficult questions.
When will they return to the court? How long will the 2019-20 season last if it continues? And how could this stretch potentially impact salaries?
The National Basketball Players Association addressed that last issue in a memo sent out to players Friday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The NBPA explained there is a "doomsday provision" in the current collective bargaining agreement covering a "force majeure event" that would free owners from paying players a percentage of their salaries if the remainder of the season is canceled.
"Force Majeure Event" shall mean the occurrence of any of the following events or conditions, provided that such event or condition either (i) makes it impossible for the NBA to perform its obligations under this Agreement, or (ii) frustrates the underlying purpose of this Agreement, or (iii) makes it economically impracticable for the NBA to perform its obligations under this Agreement: wars or war-like action (whether actual 468 Article XXXIX or threatened and whether conventional or other, including, but not limited to, chemical or biological wars or war-like action); sabotage, terrorism or threats of sabotage or terrorism; explosions; epidemics; weather or natural disasters, including, but not limited to, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, storms or earthquakes; and any governmental order or action (civil or military); provided, however, that none of the foregoing enumerated events or conditions is within the reasonable control of the NBA or an NBA Team.
As Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher notes, players' salaries would be reduced by 1.08 percent for every canceled game in this scenario. For example, LeBron James would lose about $404,000 per canceled game. (He makes $37.4 million in salary this season.) This obviously wouldn't crush someone in James' salary range, but it would be a significant blow for players signed to less lucrative deals.
The provision could be triggered if the coronavirus outbreak is considered an epidemic. Sources told Wojnarowski there have been no discussions yet between the league and NBPA about a "force majeure event" because there is hope the season will resume later this year.
There's been no discussion about the league/owners trying to trigger the Force Majeure should the season be lost because of coronavirus pandemic -- but union clearly wants to make sure players understand it exists. https://t.co/aZ3MVIfDUB
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 13, 2020
During an "NBA on TNT" interview, Silver said it is possible the season will not continue, but there is not enough information available to make that determination at this point.
"We wanted to give direction to our players and teams and to our fans that [the suspension of play] is gonna be roughly at least a month," Silver said. "But then the question becomes, is there a protocol, frankly, with or without fans in which we can resume play?"