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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Florida, Disney, and the NBA Will Have Blood on Their Hands

Governor Ron DeSantis blames Florida’s latest coronavirus spike on the state’s Hispanic workers.
Governor Ron DeSantis blames Florida’s latest coronavirus spike on the state’s Hispanic workers.
Photo: Getty

Do you hear that sound, Florida?

It’s the cacophony of humming ventilators, grieving children, and hammers nailing wooden boards onto storefronts. It’s the sound of death, despair, and destitution. It’s headed straight for you.

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We’ve heard this song stateside a few times already, most notably in New York, where it erupted from unpreparedness and ineptitude — but not malice. Your sin, Florida, is hubris.

Your most prominent member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, is a frat-bro blight on Capitol Hill. On a daily basis he embarasses your venerable state with contrived antics. He is a glib imp, beholden to a trillion-dollar weapons industry that serves as the true political power behind his Panhandle district.

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Your senior senator, Marco Rubio, is the human manifestation of a dad joke. He once held presidential aspirations, only to doof away his chances by awkwardly sipping water during a State of the Union rebuttal. Only Howard Dean, in recent memory, has managed to flame out of relevance for a dumber reason.

Your empty haircut of a governor, Ron DeSantis, would delight in your peasant death if it meant a bump in his poll numbers, an increase in Tallahassee’s bottom line, or, ideally, both.

These are the dregs making life-or-death decisions affecting more than 4 million high-risk people in Florida over age 65 — the largest senior population of any state but California, which has nearly twice as many residents.

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In conjunction with the biblically evil Walt Disney Corporation, Florida is already set to host NBA players as they close out their season in an Orlando-area “bubble environment.” But it’s not just NBA players they’re hosting. Disney will also need to accommodate staffers. Broadcasters. Reporters. Cooks. Janitors. It goes on. And those same accommodations will be necessary for all 26 MLS teams. They’ll be there, too. Everyone together at the same Wide World of Sports compound.

Any hope of a truly impermeable “bubble” is fraught. Any lawmaker or league official saying otherwise is disingenuous. So what happens when the bubble is inevitably breached by contagion? More than likely, the show will go on. Short of an entire Finals roster coming down with the plague, they’ll keep playing.

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Sports are an entertainment product. Why are we celebrating Disney’s vulturous swoop as some great logistical triumph? Why are we stuck debating the political and practical nuances of “the bubble,” and not the ethics of diverting medical resources from those who might need them most, for the sake of a fucking entertainment product?

Hypothetical Scenario: A group of athletes, successfully ducking Bubble Enforcement Officials, head out to a nearby club. A week later, they test positive for coronavirus. The state of Florida, in a show of containment and reassurance, parades a well-publicized surge of doctors and medical gear into the Disney-owned facilities. The bad press blows over in two or three days, giving way to incremental gameday news. Taxpayers foot the bill.

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If that sideshow leads to just one death in the surrounding community — even indirectly, through a lack of resources — every official involved in these horrible machinations should be tried for manslaughter, from DeSantis on down. That means you, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. That means you, MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The blood will be on your hands.

Infection rates are already spiking in Florida, and the leagues haven’t even set up shop yet. Researchers have already pegged the state as America’s next coronavirus epicenter. DeSantis, for his part, blames the alarming trend on Florida’s largely Hispanic workforce.

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Perhaps feeling a kinship with viral infestations, DeSantis was the first governor nationwide to fling back open his state’s doors, offering arbitrary “essential worker” labels to sports and sports-adjacent businesses in exchange for a steady flow of taxable revenue. What began with small-scale WWE house shows and crowdless televised UFC bouts has ballooned into a series of confused, pie-in-the-sky plans involving each major American sport but football.

It was never about Bubble Integrity. Never about protecting the vulnerable. Kyrie Irving knows what’s up.

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“Smells a little fishy,” he said.

Right on the money. You don’t need to be Pythagoras to figure this one out.

Nobody is looking to create, nor enforce, some impossibly walled-off ecosystem. The point of the “bubble” — a purely theatrical device — is that it provides just enough procedural lip service to make a Florida-centric return seem viable. Get a foot in the door. Lock in the revenue streams now. Worry about the public health fallout later.

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When the legislators are in on the con, it’s not so hard to fabricate a sense of political feasibility.

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