Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The NBA and NBPA defended the testing of their players for Covid-19 amid criticism from New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and others.
"There's nothing irresponsible -- if you've got that information [that you've been exposed] -- about trying to get the tests," NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday. "The problem that more of us can't get the tests -- and I'm not apologetic about saying it -- in my view, that rests at the foot of the federal government. They were responsible for making sure we were protected in that regard, and I think they failed.
"We shouldn't be fighting about this now ... but once this is done and we get through it, and we will, let's figure out who screwed up and fix that."
Shortly after the Nets announced that four of their players had tested positive for Covid-19, de Blasio questioned the team's decision.
"We wish them a speedy recovery. But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested," de Blasio tweeted Tuesday. "Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."
President Donald Trump also weighed in on the issue of athletes getting tested for Covid-19 when he was asked Wednesday whether "the well-connected go to the front of the line" for tests.
"Well, you'd have to ask them that question," Trump responded.
When asked whether it should happen, Trump responded, "No, I wouldn't say so."
"But perhaps that's been the story of life," Trump said. "That does happen on occasion, and I've noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly."
The Knicks said on Wednesday that they have not tested players since they all have been asymptomatic.
"We have been following the recommendations of local and national health officials and continue to monitor our players closely," the team said in a statement. "As of now, with our players remaining asymptomatic, none of them have been tested for Covid-19. We will remain in close contact with health officials and the NBA."
Kevin Durant told The Athletic that he was among the Nets who tested positive.
The Nets in a statement Wednesday explained their decision to test players.
The club said they "sourced the tests through a private company and paid for them ourselves because we did not want to impact access to [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]'s public resources."
"Using the test results, we were able to take immediate precautions and strictly isolate the players who tested positive," the statement continued. "If we had waited for players to exhibit symptoms, they might have continued to pose a risk to their family, friends and the public. Our hope is that by drawing attention to the critical need for testing asymptomatic positive carriers, we can begin to contain the spread and save lives."
The NBA has said that it is following guidelines from health officials with regards to testing. The league said that eight teams have been fully tested for the coronavirus.
"Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players' direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement to several outlets. "Following two players testing positive last week, others were tested and five additional players tested positive.
"Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test results public, they have drawn attention to the critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly."
Some public health officials have said that a shortage of testing has led to significant stress on the health-care system and that many who have experienced symptoms don't have access to testing.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview on Wednesday that he understood the public criticism of NBA teams getting tested, but he said the league had been following guidelines of health officials.
"I, of course, understand [de Blasio's] point in that it's unfortunate we're at this position as a society where it's triage when it comes to testing," Silver said in an interview with ESPN. "And so the fundamental issue is obviously there are insufficient tests. I'd only say in the case of the NBA, we've been following the recommendations of public health officials. Silver also pointed out that NBA players are around large groups of people and travel regularly, which could increase the possibility that they spread the disease if they are infected.
"[Last week in Oklahoma City] the Utah Jazz did not ask to be tested. The Oklahoma public health official there on the spot not only required that they be tested, but they weren't allowed to leave their locker room, which was for at least four hours after the game where they had to stay, masks on, in the locker room. They couldn't leave until health authorities had tested them. So that was our first case.
"And then what followed, when we then had additional positive tests the next day, [we followed] health officials' and our doctors' recommendations that we then looked at essentially that group of teams that were most proximate to the initial team that had tested positive and then the circle expanded from there.
"Again, I understand from a public health standpoint why some people have reacted the way they did, but I'd say from an NBA standpoint, we were following directives."
The NBA suspended its season last week after Utah player Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19. Six other players have since tested positive for the virus.
The league has recommended to players that they remain in their local market but that they are free to travel within North America as long as they have clearance from health officials. Some Knicks players have left the New York area. Players cannot yet travel internationally.
The league also suggested that teams regularly check in with players -- in and out of market -- to make sure they remain asymptomatic.