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Chinese league calls back American players, looking to re-start play

Liaoning Flying Leopards Unveils New Signing Lance Stephenson

SHENYANG, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 14: Liaoning Flying Leopards’s new signing Lance Stephenson attends his presentation ceremony on September 14, 2019 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

VCG via Getty Images

On Feb. 1, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) suspended play due to the coronavirus. That nation has seen more than 80,000 cases and more 3,000 deaths from the disease.

Since then, China seemingly has gotten control of the outbreak, with decreasing numbers of new cases. Manufacturing and other industries have started up again, people are returning to restaurants and coffee houses, and reportedly life is starting to return to normal.

That means the CBA wants to start up again; it has requested players under contract to return to China.

American players have been resistant to the idea of coming back, to put it kindly. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote about this:

The Chinese Basketball Association has told American players to plan to return as early as this weekend and prepare for the league to resume in early April. But it’s not clear if the players will comply...

American players have been informed that they will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine upon return to China, sources told ESPN, although details remain sparse regarding where and how that process would be conducted...

Conversations with players and representatives for around half of the Americans in the league revealed a significant amount of trepidation for how to proceed, with many players flatly stating at the moment that they do not plan on getting on a plane to China anytime in the near future due to safety concerns, at least not without significantly more information in hand.

Sources I spoke with about this topic said it was far more clear cut — players did not want to return. Since they were sent home in February they have not been paid, and now they are being asked to return what they see as a dangerous situation. They note that the U.S. Department of State has not lifted its travel advisory to China. Also, there is a clause in every professional contract that says a player cannot be put in a position that could lead to harm that would be a threat to their livelihood, and they believe this qualifies.

It’s possible this could end up with officials at FIBA having to make a decision.

There are about 40 American players with CBA contracts this season including Jeremy Lin, Lance Stephenson, and Ty Lawson. Stephenson has been in talks with the Pacers about signing with them, however, that is up in the air (at best) considering the suspension of play in the NBA.