Race and Economy

After pressure from players, some Black-owned businesses profit from NBA ‘bubble’

Erika Beras Jul 30, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A Celtics-Rockets game in February, shortly before the season was paused. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Race and Economy

After pressure from players, some Black-owned businesses profit from NBA ‘bubble’

Erika Beras Jul 30, 2020
A Celtics-Rockets game in February, shortly before the season was paused. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The NBA returns tonight. Games won’t look like they did before the league hit pause in March: social distancing on the bench, no fans in the stands and no home court advantage.

The 22 teams have been staying at the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida, in a quarantine “bubble.” The cost: more than $170 million.

Keeping the players satisfied while they’re in the bubble? Not easy, according to Dave Berri, a sports economics professor at Southern Utah University. Players are used to making their own choices, but “now you’re centralizing everything. So it’s one NBA making the decisions,” Berri said.

About everything from the blankets in the hotel rooms — not long enough — to the food. Players made fun of meals on social media and asked why the owner of the Houston Rockets got a catering contract.

J.R. Smith of the L.A. Lakers made an Instagram video about it a couple of weeks ago.

“Ya’ll don’t think it would have been dope to get some of these Black restaurants in the surrounding Orlando area?” he said in the video.

The NBA seems to be listening to what its players want. The league didn’t get back to Marketplace before deadline, but it is supporting players as they bring Black Lives Matter messages to the game.

Meanwhile, the players feel empowered. Courtney Cox is an assistant professor of race and sport in the Indigenous, race, and ethnic studies department at the University of Oregon. She said now the players are saying everything we do can be more intentional — including encouraging the league to spend bubble cash in the community.

Last week, an NBA official showed up to offer a catering contract at Seana’s Caribbean|Soul Food restaurant in Orlando. It’s owned by Joshua Johnson, a 31-year-old Black man who said he’s an even bigger NBA fan now.

“Everything that’s going on, not every organization has done this,” he said.

And in this economic climate, the newfound attention is welcome, Johnson said. Just Wednesday, eight people came in and asked for exactly what LeBron ordered: salmon, greens and mac and cheese.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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