(Reuters) – National Basketball Association executives and player agents are calling on the league to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season due to health concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported on Thursday.
Even as many states in the U.S. begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions and open up the economy, cracks are beginning to show in the NBA’s resolve to complete the campaign and crown a champion, according to CNBC.
Talking to executives and agents, CNBC said team owners are concerned with liability issues and are conflicted about whether or not to give up on the current season.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBAPA) has agreed to withhold 25% of players’ pay starting next month.
With that issue resolved CNBC reported that many owners have no desire to return because other sources of revenue are down and despite a massive media rights deal, teams are still reporting losses.
One person told CNBC a western conference team has already lost roughly $50 million this season and doesn’t have much incentive to restart the campaign.
“What (owners) are saying is, ’If we return, where is the revenue that is going to justify the additional cost of returning?’,” one team executive said.
“They are looking at the cost side versus the revenue side. What revenue comes in now?”
Despite the reservations, the NBA has given every indication it plans to complete the current campaign.
The league announced this week it would soon unveil rule changes that will allow teams to open their practice facilities for players to take part in treatment and limited workouts.
There is no set date for when facilities can open, though the league advised teams that it is targeting no earlier than May 8.
Los Angeles Lakers’ Lebron James made it clear he is not yet ready to give up on the season, saying he and his team mates are ready to go whenever it is safe to do so.
“Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true,” James said on Twitter. “Nobody I know saying anything like that.
“As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be cancelling anything.”
The NBA was the first of North America’s major sports to suspend play after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11.
The decision created a domino effect with many league and sports quickly following the NBA lead and cancelling or postponing seasons.
A number of scenarios of how the NBA might be able to restart have been floated, including centralizing teams in Las Vegas or the Bahamas and playing games in empty arenas.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)