Spencer Dinwiddie is tweeting through it. What else is he supposed to do?
After the abrupt, indefinite postponement of the NBA season on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn Nets guard returned to San Antonio, Texas, where he’s been social distancing and putting his every thought on Twitter. The rest of his unexpectedly homebound routine is as follows: He’s usually up around 8 a.m.—though he doesn’t set an alarm anymore—and he completes an in-home morning workout. Then he answers work emails, tries his hand at cooking previously unattainable dishes (most recently, smoking a 20-pound brisket), and he watches every animated show/movie imaginable with his almost-two-year-old son. (His son's favorites: Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig.) Throughout it all, he’s been weighing in on topics ranging from universal basic income to the most dominant basketball player of all-time—which is Shaquille O’Neal, he says.
Dinwiddie’s willingness to Be Online led to some uncomfortable questions last week, March 17, when reports emerged that four Nets players, including superstar Kevin Durant, tested positive for COVID-19. (Durant is asymptomatic and doing well.) Dinwiddie even referenced the double-edged sword of his online-ness situation during a global pandemic that's directly affected the lives of his NBA colleagues.
The Nets’ test results, coupled with the plentiful and reliable COVID-19 testing for other NBA teams, has called into question why the United States healthcare system has only been able to accommodate the rich and famous. In an interview with GQ, Dinwiddie articulates his own stance on the COVID-19 testing rollout, delves further into the regimen of a socially distant NBA player, talks about the economic effect the pandemic could have on the league, and makes clear who he believes should be the primary subject of any wealth inequality conversations.
GQ: Are you able to get in any home workouts right now?
Spencer Dinwiddie: You've got to do something to stay in relative shape. There’s no way to stay in NBA mid-season shape, though. The Brooklyn Nets have really done a good job of sending over programs and FaceTiming in, offering guidance for workouts. We’ve been hitting the jailhouse workouts like we’re 10 years old again, when our dads were telling us to do pushups and situps.
Jared Dudley tweeted that you’d need a month or so to get back into shape if the NBA facilities stay shut down. Where do you stand on that?
I can’t speak for specific timing, but we definitely will need time to get back in NBA shape. The example I use is that LeBron James is 35. He’s got several more years left. You wouldn’t want to rush him back into playing. If he gets hurt, then you lose the back-end of his career. You’re throwing guys into the highest intensity scenario possible. It’s not like you’re starting the season at the beginning when some guys come in a little out of shape with time to ramp up. This is like, go win a championship.
Did you see these viral tweets going around where people were saying you purposely didn’t high-five Kevin Durant at the end of a game against the Nuggets to avoid getting COVID-19?
Yeah man, which is crazy, because that game was in, what, December? [It was December 8.] How would I have known that? If it wasn’t for the dang Woj report, I wouldn’t have known KD had COVID-19. It was news to me like it was to everyone else.
Have you gotten to check in on him?
Yeah, of course. KD is my guy, a good dude, and I love having him on the team. We all text each other in our team chat. We checked on him, but that’s not a big topic of conversation. We don’t get into all of that.
How much was COVID-19 on NBA players’ radars before the full-on shutdown almost two weeks ago?
The rise was super quick. It wasn’t something we were scared of. Some guys have friends overseas, so they were hearing about the shutdown in China, but they weren’t expecting the full-on shutdown here.
Vice published a piece recently that examined how NBA teams have readily been given COVID-19 tests in the midst of the shortage here. An ER doctor quoted in the piece said, “The current practice in New York is no one who's not getting admitted to a hospital is getting a test… Except for basketball players.” I’m sure you’ve seen this criticism over the last few weeks. I wanted to get your response.
I’ve had my differences with the NBA in terms of cryptocurrency and contractual things. But if you look at the response here, when the NBA shut down, everybody in the country basically had their holy shit moment and followed suit. In a lot of ways, the NBA helped people in the country take this seriously. So number one, I give Adam Silver a thank you for that.
Number two, when you talk about wealth inequality, it’s clear that once we understood there was a pandemic, tests should’ve no longer cost thousands of dollars for people with and without insurance. They should’ve been given out, en masse, for free. Of course, anytime you make something available for money, the rich people are going to buy it. It’s no different than any other commodity or asset. The U.S. made the test something that has a dollar value. We basically said that human life has less value to us than making money off this test. And that has nothing to do with the NBA just because the organizations have the money to buy the tests. It has everything to do with the healthcare system that’s all about money and profit over human life.
At the end of the day, if we knew this was going to be a problem—and please believe me, the U.S. government knew—they should’ve prepped for the tests right when China started its own shutdown. To the ER doctor you quoted, trust me, I understand the frustration. The things we have access to aren’t fair, I agree. Unfortunately, that’s the way the healthcare system is set up. We didn’t do that. The NBA actually did the country a service by shutting down and sending a message. I’m giving Adam Silver all the kudos on this one. I’m much more disappointed in our country’s broken system.
Adam Silver has talked about a potential $1 billion hit to the NBA for lost games, which would almost certainly affect player salaries moving forward. The force majeure clause, or the “doomsday” provision, has also come up more and more of late. [The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that in the event of an epidemic, teams do not have to pay players for games missed.] I have to imagine that’s crossed your mind over the last few days.
Here’s the problem with the doomsday provision. Let’s say they run the numbers and determine they can save x amount of dollars by instituting the force majeure, they stop paying players, let insurance cover certain things, yada yada yada. If you do that, the players aren’t coming back this season. You’re telling me you want me to come back in two weeks but you’re not going to pay me? That doesn’t work in any type of business. It seems like the goal is to salvage the season in some form or fashion, which means you’re going to have to keep paying us, so we show up when you want us to show up.
As for the billion-dollar loss conversation, they’re going to gloss over this, but part of that loss started with the China controversy before the season. This isn’t completely on COVID-19. Both of them together, obviously, make a big difference. The salary cap was supposed to jump to something pretty crazy in the next two years, and I’m assuming they’ll try to smooth out that billion over the course of time now. That way, free agents know going in that their number goes down a little bit. There are other considerations too. The escrow portion of salaries, the 10 percent that’s in holding, the NBA will take that back. I think a lot of players know that. The best approach is a longer-term approach.
And you were saying you think the tournament you proposed would help make up some of that revenue loss?
Yeah. In the tournament I proposed, you could potentially have the first two rounds at a neutral site, with a football stadium-type arena, like March Madness. Then you go back to best-of-seven for the round of 16, which is essentially the postseason. But initially, you get everyone’s fan bases involved, and everyone is starving to watch the tournament. If you put 100,000 people in a football arena, that’s five sold-out NBA games. But if you get that type of atmosphere and fill seats, you start to make up the games lost. Those first two rounds, you do best of three. If you do that, take away the escrow, and smooth out the cap a little bit, then nobody really gets affected at the end of the day. Especially since you get some playoff money back, and the TV ratings would be higher while people get to watch something emotion-filled and current, instead of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol.
I think the tournament is a cool idea, and I mean that, but putting 100,000 people in an arena in the next few months doesn’t seem possible at this point.
For sure. I’m definitely not an expert on public health. And when I tweeted that idea, I didn’t understand how long this might last. At the time, people were saying it would be more like a month. Now, I’m hearing four months, and Governor Cuomo said as long as nine months. So I have no idea how long it’ll take. The whole concept of the tournament was based on the premise that this lasts a month or two, and mass gatherings become possible.
You tweeted about the difference between being a millionaire and a billionaire lately. We’ve seen billionaire owners, for the most part, offer to help team employees and arena workers, but how do you think billionaires have responded in other sectors?
To reference the tweet you’re talking about, athletes and entertainers are typically millionaires. But the most powerful thing they have isn’t their money—it’s their voice and influence. If I can reach a half-million people with the click of a button, that’s more powerful than finding half of a million people to give a dollar to. The most powerful thing billionaires have isn’t their voice. It’s earth-shattering, continent-moving, war-starting amounts of money.
Like, $100,000 donations from individual players does a lot of good, don’t get me wrong. But for an owner, that is quite literally nothing. They don’t even blink at that. Where you’re talking about the scale and who bears responsibility, everybody should do their part as much as they can. My percentage might be $100,000. Theirs might be $10 million. Which one is going to support families for a long time?
It’s their money, they can do what they want with it. But people have to understand that especially in this sports arena, we’ve gotten into a mindset that it’s somehow bad if a millionaire didn’t take a discount for a billionaire. Like, what? If the millionaire chooses to take a discount and that’s what makes them happy, then that’s their choice. But you can’t crucify that man for taking his money, and then say the billionaire is the benevolent figure for hoarding his money. How does that make any sense?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
The couple have become a rare source of comfort on their new DIY podcast, Staying In with Emily and Kumail, where they talk frankly about isolation and managing anxiety.
Originally Appeared on GQ