National leaders from Mayor Bill de Blasio to President Donald Trump have weighed in on the Nets getting mass testing for COVID-19 while there is a glaring shortage of test kits nationwide.
Both the Nets’ parent company and the NBA pushed back, saying it was done for the greater good, and without using a single Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resource.
“As we learned NBA players on other teams had tested positive for COVID-19, we noticed that several of our players and staff had symptoms,” Mandy Gutmann, BSE Global senior vice president of communication said in a statement. “Based on this information, and the judgment that all of our players are subject to high exposure due to the close physical nature of basketball, the communal nature of teams and the possibility of an accelerated spread from team to team, our medical experts advised that our players get tested.
“We sourced the tests through a private company and paid for them ourselves because we did not want to impact access to CDC’s public resources. Using the test results, we were able to take immediate precautions and strictly isolate the players who tested positive. If we had waited for players to exhibit symptoms, they might have continued to pose a risk to their family, friends and the public.”
“Our hope is that by drawing attention to the critical need for testing asymptomatic positive carriers, we can begin to contain the spread and save lives. We believe it is not only the right thing to do for our players and their families, it is the responsible thing to do from a medical and epidemiological standpoint.”
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 200,000 worldwide and more than 1,300 in New York City alone. The Nets flew back from California last Thursday and were tested over the weekend, despite test kits being in famously short supply. That prompted some blowback over the players being able to get testing en masse.
“We wish them a speedy recovery. 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,” de Blasio tweeted Tuesday after four Nets tested positive, adding, “Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”
And on Wednesday when President Trump was asked by NBC’s Peter Alexander, “How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others … can’t get them? Do the well-connected go to the front of the line? … Should that happen?”
“No, I wouldn’t say so,” Trump answered, adding “but perhaps that’s been the story of life.”
It even seemed to be a talking point in NBA circles.
The Post reported last Friday the Knicks weren’t eligible for testing since no players were symptomatic. And Warriors coach Steve Kerr had said, “It’s very difficult to find a test in California and many places. … So if any of our players do come down sick or any of our employees, we’ll [do] our best to get a test, but there’s definitely frustration that we don’t all have access to them.”
The NBA responded that getting the players tested was for the public good, because of their constant cross-country travel and danger of spreading the pandemic.
“Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players’ direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus,” NBA spokesman Michael Bass told The Post.
“Following two players testing positive last week, others were tested and five additional players tested positive. Hopefully, by these players choosing to make their test results public, they have drawn attention to the critical need for young people to follow CDC recommendations in order to protect others, particularly those with underlying health conditions and the elderly.”
It should be noted that Nets owner Joe Tsai co-founded Alibaba with Jack Ma; and the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation teamed up recently to send 500,000 test kits to the U.S. to fight the pandemic.