- Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory at the NBA Finals on Sunday, many celebrated the success of the NBA bubble, which effectively prevented the spread of COVID-19 among its players.
- No player who passed through quarantine tested positive for the virus after entering the strict bubble and no game was canceled as the result of an outbreak.
- This provides a stark contrast to the situations leagues like the MLB and NFL have found themselves in. Both have had to deal with large schedule changes due to outbreaks within teams.
- The NBA season also ended on a powerful note, with Lakers players dedicating their win to Kobe Bryant, who died earlier this year in a tragic helicopter crash with his daughter Gigi and seven others.
NBA Bubble Success
The Los Angeles Lakers had a lot to celebrate Sunday night after winning the NBA finals against the Miami Heat, but their victory wasn’t the only massive success story to come out of the turbulent basketball season.
The NBA bubble in Disney World, which was home to the season’s restart, proved to be a triumph. No player who cleared quarantine tested positive for the coronavirus and no games were canceled because of an outbreak. The NBA’s season initially shut down in March after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. It picked back up in the bubble with games starting at the end of July.
There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not holding a season in a contained environment would work, but the NBA has proved those doubts wrong. The NBA’s ability to contain the virus is especially impressive in contrast to the way other professional American sports leagues have handled their seasons amid the pandemic. By the halfway point of its season, the MLB had postponed over 40 games because of the virus, with two teams having significant outbreaks. The NFL is dealing with outbreaks of its own on the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans, resulting in schedule changes.
Many have praised NBA commissioner Adam Silver for the bubble’s success, including Shahbaz Khan, the digital director for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The NBA’s success relied on numerous health and safety strategies, including frequent COVID-19 testing. There were also strict quarantine rules that had to be followed upon entering the bubble, and once inside, players were not allowed to leave with very few exceptions. Outsiders were also not welcome inside, except for select Disney staff. However, as the playoffs picked up at the end of August, some team member’s families were allowed in as well.
“A major key to the bubble’s success was the NBA’s attention to detail on everything from logistics to event planning to internal communication,” Ben Golliver, an NBA reporter for The Washington Post, wrote in a piece detailing his life in the bubble. “There were many policies and rules, but they were logical and regularly reinforced.”
“The league’s leaders were receptive to feedback and open about their limitations, and their steadfast desire to complete the entire restart without a positive test revealed compassion rarely seen in big business,” Golliver added. “They had billions of reasons to keep everyone healthy, but their conduct and follow-through stood in stark contrast to those of leaders in the federal government and other sports.”
With its success, many now wonder how strategies similar to the bubble could be implemented in other businesses and areas of life. Golliver said that the bubble served as an “impressive public health achievement at a time when the United States desperately needed one.”
“It should stand as a model for what can be done when immense resources are deployed thoughtfully, in good faith and in line with medical and scientific recommendations,” he wrote.
Still, some thought that the bubble’s success relied on the massive amounts of funding put into it, which most facets of society cannot actually rely on or access.
“I was skeptical, but the NBA bubble actually worked,” said Josh Hamblin, a doctor and staff writer for The Atlantic. “It’s a testament to human ingenuity and resilience how quickly we can reinvent things and get people back to work, safely and effectively, when a group of billionaires has a direct financial stake in making it happen.”
Powerful Win for the Lakers
While the bubble may have dominated much of the discussion around this season, the finals still ended on a powerful note. The Lakers win was especially meaningful following the tragic helicopter crash earlier this year that left Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven others dead. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, wrote in an Instagram story that she wished her husband and daughter were around to see the win. Players on the Lakers also dedicated their victory to the Lakers legend.
“I know he’s looking down on us proud of us. I know Vanessa’s proud of us, the organization’s proud of us,” said Anthony Davis. “It means a lot to us. It’s a tough moment, man. (cross talk among players) He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him.”
This season was also rocked by fights for social justice by NBA players. Back in August, the players held a strike, refusing to play games in protest of police brutality following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They chose to resume the season, and Lakers star LeBron James was considered to be a leader in making that choice.
James himself is generally seen as a leader when it comes to these movements in the league, making this win all the more impactful.
In Los Angeles, fans took to the downtown area to congregate at the Staples Center, despite pleas from Mayor Eric Garcetti to stay home and not form crowds at the arena during the pandemic.
Hundreds still gathered to celebrate. Eventually, the Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly and arrested those refusing to leave the area.
A total of 76 people were arrested. Police said that the gatherings turned “confrontational, violent and destructive” as bottles, rocks, and other objects were thrown.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Washington Post) (CBS News)
Biden to Outline Actions To Combat the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence
The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks.
President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise
President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence.
That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.”
Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.
Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales
Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.
In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019.
Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.
Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.
Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence.
Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.
“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.
“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program
State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.
Rent Relief in the Works
The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.
It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.
However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”
The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”
Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.
Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.
Eviction Ban Complications
Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.
According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.
State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.
Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week.
But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.
As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.
State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus
Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.
California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.
While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.
“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Hill)
Manhattan City Council Candidate Says He’s “Not Ashamed” After BDSM Video Leaks Online
While many applauded the candidate’s response, others suspect the entire ordeal may have been manufactured for publicity.
BDSM Video Leaks
Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old candidate for Manhattan’s City Council, has caught a flood of attention in recent days after responding to a BDSM video of himself that leaked online.
According to the New York Post, which first reported on the leak Saturday, the video was published by an anonymous Twitter account earlier this month.
“My magnificent domme friend played with Upper West Side city council candidate Zack Weiner and I’m the only one who has the footage,” the tweet reportedly read.
The video was flagged to the Post by Weiner’s campaign manager, Joe Gallagher, the news outlet said. The tabloid also claimed it showed Weiner gagged while “subjecting himself to various abuses by a leather-bound woman who pours wax on him and clips his nipples with clothespins.”
The footage was filmed at Parthenon studio in Midtown, which the Post described as known for its high-quality BDSM dungeons, and Weiner actually confirmed the video’s authenticity to the outlet, saying it was filmed at that location in 2019 with a former girlfriend that he met during a Halloween party.
Weiner Says He’s “Not Ashamed”
Weiner took to Twitter on Saturday to address the private video head on.
“Whoops. I didn’t want anyone to see that, but here we are,” he wrote.
“I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun. Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online.”
“While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction. I trust that voters will choose a city council representative based on their policies and their ability to best serve the community,” he continued.
In his comments to the Post, he added, “I am a proud BDSMer. I like BDSM activity.” He also said he had no idea how the footage surfaced, saying “It’s definitely a violation of trust.”
Praise and Suspicions
Many people online have applauded Weiner for refusing to apologize for private consensual acts. One, for example, tweeted, “Yeah – as long as this was between 2 (or more) consenting adults – I don’t care one bit. If this info ALONE would cause you to vote for somebody else, then I am FAR MORE worried about YOUR participation in Government than his!”
In fact, many have said they would vote for him after learning of the video and slammed critics, as well as the tabloid, for “kink-shaming.”
It’s worth noting that the Post’s article described Weiner as someone who “has mostly been a nonentity in the race for the Upper West Side’s 6th District.” It pointed to the fact that he has no endorsements and that his campaign barely raised $10,000 — most of which allegedly came from himself and his campaign manager.
Because of this, along with Gallagher’s contact with the Post, some have speculated that the entire ordeal may have been some kind of stunt manufactured for publicity.