Could the NBA rip up the CBA during the COVID-19 pandemic?

By Vincent Frank
Oct 23, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the press during the 2023 NB All-Star announcement at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA suspended its season about a month ago when Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. There’s no telling when the Association will return to action.

While they have grand plans for the playoffs in Las Vegas, the current situation relating to the pandemic makes it more than possible that the 2019-20 campaign could be cancelled altogether.

There’s definitely a financial backdrop to all of this. Teams are set to lose tens of millions in cold hard cash. If the season were to be canceled, the NBA estimates that it will lose north of $1 billion in revenue.

Underlying these issues is that there’s a split between the NBA and players’ union regarding salaries. The two sides are not necessarily close to an agreement on this.

While the NBA will pay out full salaries on April 15, there’s no telling what might happen after that. According to this report from Tim Bontemps and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the NBA has the ability to tear up the current collective bargaining agreement.

“The league’s CBA includes a force majeure clause, enabling owners to cancel games and recover salary in the event of a pandemic,” the report read. “This clause also gives the league a 60-day window within which it can rip up the CBA entirely — effectively beginning a work stoppage. No one wants to do that. But it underscores the gravity of the situation. Still, in recent years the two sides have worked as well together as ever, and the CBA isn’t set to expire until 2024.”

That would be the definition of going nuclear. It would also likely lead to a work stoppage far beyond the 2019-20 campaign. There would be no going back from this, especially given that the relationship between the NBA and NBPA is seemingly in good standing right now.

The above-mentioned report does note that the NBA has all options on the table and is pushing to resume the season at some point.

“The league plans to consider all options to resume the season, sources told ESPN, but the financial realities of the situation demand near-immediate action. That has become clear in talks between the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and player agents, sources told ESPN, as the league tries to get its finances in order in the event the rest of the season must be canceled.”

One idea floated has been to resume the season with the playoffs and NBA Finals being held in Las Vegas without fans in attendance. This is complicated by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s strict stay-at-home order that includes basketball courts and golf courses.

How the next couple weeks go as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States will tell us the entire story here. We’re currently the epicenter of the pandemic with north of 457,000 cases and 16,200-plus deaths.