HBO Real sport with Bryant Gumbel has dug into quite a few important and controversial stories during his 25 years on air, and a segment of Tuesday’s edition (which begins at 10 p.m. ET / PT) definitely follows that tradition. Correspondent David Scott is leading a 15-minute segment titled “Questionable Calls,” which explores three specific areas of how U.S. professional sports leagues and teams have responded to the COVID-19 coronavirus. These areas are being tested (in particular, why so many asymptomatic NBA players were tested immediately after Rudy Gobert tested positive), with the Sacramento Kings briefly renting out their former Sleep Train Arena to the California government as a disease response center for $ 500,000 per month, and the teams that applied for federal funding for the Paycheck Protection Plan that targeted small businesses (the Los Angeles Lakers are the only ones confirmed, and they then returned that money, but this report suggests that other teams may also have applied).
All of these areas present strong criticisms of the responses from leagues and teams, but that of the PPP is perhaps particularly noteworthy for its suggestion that other professional teams may have applied to the program and possibly received funding through it. Here’s part of that dialogue between Scott and Kyle herrig, founder and chairman of the government watch group Accountable.US:
David Scott: All of this raises a question: How many other sports teams helped dump the small business bailout? It turns out… it’s a well-kept secret…
Kyle Herrig: There is no obligation to report here. And there is no transparency in the program.
Scott: So wouldn’t that cover a big sports franchise to try to get money without being publicly identified?
Herrig: There’s no way we know if a sports team took the money unless they disclosed it.
Scott: So we asked each team from the four major American sports. The NFL told us that none of their teams have signed up. All NBA teams have said the same thing… except of course, the Lakers. But of the 53 US-based teams in Major League Baseball and the NHL… 27 of them declined to answer our question.
Of course, refusing teams to answer a question doesn’t necessarily mean they applied, and it certainly doesn’t mean they were successful. Some teams may have chosen not to comment even though they had not actually applied for PPP funding, while others could have applied, not obtained it and chose to keep this information to themselves. But the numbers Scott cites here certainly suggest that there are a lot of teams who don’t want to reveal whether they have applied for or received federal funding (which the Real sports coin notes were meant to be specifically aimed at businesses that couldn’t go on without it; professional sports teams worth billions or hundreds of millions and backed by wealthy leagues and owners certainly don’t seem to qualify there).
It’s an interesting new story that might make more people wonder if other sports teams have applied for or received P3 funding. Granted, professional sports teams aren’t known to be very open, so we may never see another result here. But it’s really remarkable to see Real sports both by drawing attention to this point and by getting this number of declined responses to comments.
And this whole segment offers some harsh criticism of the leagues and makes some valid points. In the discussion of the tests that leads to this, Scott questions Dr.William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases and professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University, which discusses the widespread testing shortage in March (when the NBA tested many entire teams, including the Brooklyn Nets). Schaffner says “We needed to focus on people who had advanced disease, who were already showing symptoms” and “We couldn’t test healthcare workers who have had direct contact with COVID patients on a large scale. positive. … I was saddened that here we were diverting resources from genuine public health needs for another use.
Scott also talks to Mia Mungin, a Brooklyn nurse who was exposed to the disease in her job at the hospital, was unable to get tested, and later saw her sister Zoe die from it (also after being denied testing), and Mungin says “All I could do is cry, I was so angry” while discussing reports that the entire Nets team had been tested when she and her sister could not take tests. In a subsequent interview that took place after Zoe’s death, Mungin says he was told that Zoe’s delay in testing may have led to her death: “The answer I got was that she was too far along in the disease process, so anything we could have tried, could have tried, couldn’t get my sister tested, with symptoms. It’s just something that I can’t let go. We’re healthcare providers, we’re risking our lives and we can’t get tested, and we’re going to put our families at risk for everything? But you’re going to dribble a basketball, and hey, the world is saved.
The discussion on the Sacramento arena is also notable, with Scott interviewing Craig Powell, president of civic watch group Eye on Sacramento. The segment covers how this was initially viewed as a charity move on the Kings part, only to be revealed later that they were getting $ 500,000 per month for it (in addition to various operational costs). And it was in their old arena, which was only available because of the new Golden 1 Center, built with $ 255 million in city money. Powell describes the decision to charge rent here as “capitalizing on a pandemic,” and Scott’s article notes that while the Kings ultimately decided to make the Sleep Train Arena available rent-free Last week (Two days after Real sports asked them about it), they did not return the first two payments of $ 500,000 they received.
All in all, it is certainly remarkable to see Real sport providing a platform for such harsh criticism from the leagues on these serious issues. And this is a well done segment of Scott and the Real sports (Nick Dolin, Chapman Downes, Josh Fine and Max Gershberg are the rated producers for this segment). And it illustrates that these kinds of documentary segments can still be done even in a quarantine world; Scott is seen at home, with the people he interviews appearing via video conference, and while it might have been nice to see them appear together on camera as you may have seen in a year other than 2020, it seemed like a perfectly functional substitute. . And that’s a valuable segment, and one that raises tough questions about how teams and leagues have responded to COVID-19.
The latest episode of Real Sports starring Bryant Gumbel airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.