As sports leagues worldwide suspend play in response to the global coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Basketball Association has called for its American players to return to China in preparation for the league to resume play next month.
According to ESPN, there are roughly 40 American players — including former NBA talents such as Jeremy Lin and Lance Stephenson — under contract with teams in the Chinese league who are being asked to return to China as early as this weekend. The league originally sent players home on holiday for the Lunar New Year in late January and intended for them to return in mid-February, but the virus outbreak left things in limbo.
While numerous American and European sports leagues have suspended play over the past 24 hours — including the cancelation of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — the CBA’s team officials have been discussing ways to resume play as “positive signs” have emerged in China in regards to containing the virus.
It is unclear whether American players will comply with the CBA’s return order, but sources told ESPN those who do return will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine — though, the details about the return process are unclear at this time.
CBA Aims to Resume Play as Soon as April 2
The situation regarding the CBA is still very much in flux, as it is everywhere in regards to COVID-19 with nations around the world working to address the outbreak, but the league’s memo about the expectation of resuming play carried an uplifting tone on Thursday.
Here’s the memo, per ESPN:
“In January 2020, the new coronavirus broke out in many places across the country. According to the requirements of national epidemic prevention and control, we postponed the subsequent games of the 2019-2020 CBA season scheduled to be held on February 1. At present, the situation of epidemic prevention and control in CBA cities is basically stable. In order to better respond to the national requirements on precise prevention and control, solid and orderly promotion of return to work and production, shoulder the mission and task of sports confidence, warm people’s hearts and gather people’s hearts, according to the relevant requirements of China Basketball Association on the restart of the league, the rest of the games of the 2019-2020 CBA season will restart from the beginning of April.
“All clubs and teams are requested to prepare for the restart of CBA League as early as April 2. At the same time, all teams should comply with the relevant requirements of the national and local epidemic prevention and control departments, continue to strengthen the epidemic prevention and control work, do a good job in making detailed and solid security measures such as epidemic prevention and control, and ensure the health and safety of club and team members. Details of the restart will be notified separately.”
As ESPN reported, though, many American players are hesitant to return to China with safety concerns in mind as the total numbers of cases — and deaths — rise around the globe. Not only are they worried about undergoing further quarantine processes, but there is also the concern that they might not be allowed to return to the U.S. after the conclusion of the CBA season.
President Donald J. Trump had already imposed travel restrictions between the United States and China back in late January with an official travel advisory being put into place on Feb. 2 advising U.S. citizens not to travel to China. The limitations came on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency for the virus, the spread of which is still being determined.
Unfortunately, CBA officials don’t seem to care. Some player agents told ESPN the CBA could potentially institute a lifetime ban for players who choose not to return, while agents could lose their licences for between two to three years.