Should the NBA Pay the Players Regardless of Season’s Outcome?

By Saransh Sharma & Nikhil Pradeep

With the NBA currently suspended due to the current Coronavirus outbreak, there has been talk about whether or not the season will come back at all, as many players and owners are trying to push to come back as late as September, play with no fans, and then start the next season at Christmas (which could become a permanent change). There is even talk about going straight to the playoffs and finishing the season that way, not giving teams that are just outside the playoffs a chance to fight for their way back in. The problem with that is that most teams have only played around 65 games, and the last 17 games would give them the chance to come back, but with the problem of coming back late to finish the season, TV deals, fan and player safety, and much more, it seems as though there is still too much speculation and not enough evidence to predict a true decision. Here are the scenarios the NBA could go through, and how it would affect the players:

The NBA Enforces the ‘Force Majeure’ Rule

The ‘Force Majeure’ Rule is a rule in which the CBA of the league enforces a 1% salary loss per game cancelled during the events of a circumstance such as an epidemic or pandemic. For this to happen, the entire NBA season would have to be cancelled. The problem being right now is that the NBA does not want to have to deal with this in May or June if they still have not come to a decision about how to handle the remainder of the season. If they have not reached a resolution on cancellations of some sort, the result will be dealing with players getting restless and losing belief in the system being used to handle the situation at hand. Also, by that point in time, players would demand the option to keep their entire salary, or at least have the authority to negotiate their pay cuts in a different way. The NBA needs to find the solution soon before players get restless, and enforcing a ‘Force Majeure’ will definitely be something that Commissioner Adam Silver will want to spend more time trying to decide, as opposed to deciding to cut the regular season, which can be done as soon as right now. Also, it is important to note the impact that Adam Silver had on American sports, as him suspending the NBA season led to the near-immediate suspension of many other sports leagues in the US.

Cutting Player Paychecks

The other option the league can explore is to enforce a firm direction in their handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and create a concrete plan to cut player salaries starting on a specified date. While this would create some backlash from players, media, and even fans in a way, it makes sense on the NBA’s part in order to minimize the effect of the virus to the extent that they can control. This move also makes sense looking at the current economical impacts the virus is having on pretty much any sports league at the moment: they are losing revenue at a rate never seen before. The lack of activity shuts down any sort of sports related retail, stadium-dependent jobs, and ALL fan revenue as well, the latter of which is the real killer in this scenario. According to Shams Charania on Twitter, the NBA has proposed to the NBPA a 50% paycheck reduction starting on April 15th. As expected, the NBPA counter-argued this proposition with a 25% cut starting sometime mid-May. From the standpoint of a broke college kid like myself, NBA players already make a lot of money as is, and the more prominent figures already give up a good portion of their salaries to endeavors that aren’t hell-bent on benefiting themselves. The 50% paycheck reduction is then the best course of action, and one that in my mind the NBA should implement as soon as possible. Whichever route the NBA takes, a few things are for sure: cuts are most likely going to happen, the League is in for a fairly large monetary loss, and basketball isn’t coming back anytime soon. What matters now is how well they handle the situation, as the NBA in many ways sets the global standard in league operations, and could cause a domino effect for other leagues to follow in the same footsteps.