Basketball

NBA chief executive defends players’ Covid-19 tests

Commissioner responds to NY City mayor de Blasio's criticism that tests should be for sick, not for the rich

NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended the league's swift testing of players for the new coronavirus yesterday morning (Singapore time), as the vast majority of Americans face long waits to be tested for the disease.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio slammed NBA teams for being able to access Covid-19 tests after it emerged that four members of the Brooklyn Nets, including superstar Kevin Durant had tested positive.

Several NBA teams, including the Nets, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, have been tested for the illness in private facilities despite shortages of testing kits.

"We wish them a speedy recovery," de Blasio said of the Nets players in a post on Twitter.

"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.

"Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."

In an interview with ESPN, Silver said a total of eight NBA teams had undergone tests.

But, while Silver acknowledged de Blasio's criticism, he defended the decision to test players, saying the NBA was acting on advice of public health authorities.

"I, of course, understand his point in that it is unfortunate we are in this position that it's triage when it comes to testing, so the fundamental issue obviously is that there are insufficient tests," Silver said.

"I'd only say in the case of the NBA is that we've been following the recommendations of public health officials."

The Utah Jazz were tested on March 11 in Oklahoma City after centre Rudy Gobert was found to have the virus, news that prompted the NBA to cancel that game and shut down the entire season.

Silver told ESPN that the Jazz were ordered by Oklahoma City health officials to be tested, not that the league or team requested tests.

Michele Roberts, the National Basketball Players Association executive director, also told ESPN that NBA players didn't deserve to be criticised for taking the tests while much of the nation had limited access to testing.

Roberts said the tests were warranted, given that players and teams have been exposed to others who have the virus.

Roberts said: "There's nothing irresponsible - if you've got that information (that you've been exposed) - about trying to get the tests.

"In many ways, I think it would have been irresponsible for the teams not to test their players and staffers because people in that arena have the right to know if they'd been exposed.

"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." - AFP

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