NBA: Let's lock reporters up at Disney World for the season

NBA: Let's lock reporters up at Disney World for the season

Sounds great, but … do they have to all cover basketball to qualify for quarantine? Can we nominate some others for three-plus months in the Mickeysphere? According to an internal memo acquired by The Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman, the league wants to get back to playing, but sequestered in order to avoid a COVID-19 spread that could derail the season all over again.

That means beat reporters would have to put “It’s a Small World” on constant replay, apparently — and cough up the dough for the privilege:

When the NBA resumes its 2019-20 season this summer, it won’t just be the players, team employees, and league officials who’ll be sequestered at Walt Disney World for several months. According to a Professional Basketball Writers Association memo, a select group of reporters could be locked inside the Disney bubble for at least three-and-a-half months—with no option to re-enter if they exit quarantine.

On June 4, the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan to restart the season, which came to a screeching halt after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12. There are still more than a few details to be worked out with the union, and some players are concerned about being kept in relative isolation through autumn, but as things currently stand, 22 teams would relocate to Disney’s 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There, a handful of games would be played to determine seeding for the playoffs, with the NBA Finals concluding in mid-October.

Beyond all the logistical difficulties and unknown possible future roadblocks for this locked-down-in-Orlando reboot of the NBA, one question hasn’t yet been addressed: Who would report from these quarantined games in-person, and how?

According to an email sent by Josh Robbins, the president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, the answer is that the NBA will allow a select group of journalists onto the premises—but they will be stuck there the whole time and such a privilege won’t come cheaply.

Er … is the NBA under the impression that reporters make similar salaries as its players do? Or that they have no other lives? Because it seems that this plan is based on both assumptions, which are, um … not realistic.

Actually, the plan involves two tiers of access. Reporters can access the games themselves in person without going into quarantine, but that’s all they can access. Reporters who want to interview players and coaches after games and in between would have to commit to quarantining with them for the whole season. Not only do they have to commit to separating from their family and friends, they also have to pony up rent — at DisneyWorld prices, apparently. (The league apparently would offer to pay for their food, however. How generous.)

Needless to say, not too many media outlets will rush to fund four months of resort living for their beat reporters on top of their other expenses and salaries. In this economy, most of those media outlets are probably barely hanging on as it is. Rather than report from the scene, most will probably just start reporting based on TV broadcasts instead. What’s the point of traveling to the games if you end up with no other access? The lack of human-interest reporting will likely dry up some fan interest too, meaning that the NBA will become less engaging and more remote.

Maybe the league should consider packing it in for the year if this is what they need. Or maybe, just maybe, have the Q&A sessions outside with masks and distancing protocols in place and let reporters live their lives.

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David Strom 3:21 PM on March 24, 2023