Will NBA Players Be Paid During the Coronavirus Lockdown? League Considers Plan to Recoup Salaries for Canceled Games

NBA players will be paid in full until the beginning of next month, but their future salaries may not be guaranteed if the coronavirus-enforced lockdown stretches longer into the future.

The NBA suspended the season for at least 30 days on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.

However, recommendations released last Sunday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested events and gatherings of more than 50 people should be postponed or canceled for eight weeks at least, which means the NBA may not resume until mid-May at the earliest and it may well have to do so behind closed doors.

The lockdown comes at a severe financial cost for the league, due to the loss of revenue from canceled games.

In a memo sent to the 30 franchises on Friday, the league indicated it plans to pay salaries due on April 1 in full, but acknowledged it was considering the possibility of recouping future salaries for canceled games on April 15. Teams and players will be informed of the NBA's decision before the April 15 payment deadline, the memo added.

The so-called force majeure clause of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement allows the league to withhold 1/92.6 of a player's seasonal salary per every game that has to be canceled because of catastrophic circumstances — which includes pandemics, natural disasters, and wars. Over the course of the year, the large majority of NBA players receive 24 payments, with the first half of them including a 10 percent escrow tax.

Speaking on Wednesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league was considering various contingency plans to cope with the lockdown, including quarantining and isolating a number of players who may play exhibition games. The NBA has also told teams to explore arena dates through to the end of August, hinting it was considering pushing the season back as far as possible in the hope of at least playing the playoffs.

Silver stopped short of giving a clear date by when the league may resume and it remains unclear whether the current NBA season will ever be completed. Should the regular season be completed, the players could receive their salaries at a later date if the NBA opts to exercise the force majeure clause.

To cope with the financial hit of the prolonged shutdown of the season, earlier this week ESPN reported the NBA was planning to raise its credit line to $1.2 billion to aid the league's handling of expenses.

A total of 14 NBA players or team members have tested positive to COVID-19, including Gobert's teammate Donovan Mitchell and Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood.

Four Brooklyn Nets players, including Kevin Durant, were confirmed to have tested positive earlier this week. On Thursday, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets both announced members of their organizations had tested positive to COVID-19, but neither team confirmed whether any of their players were affected.

On the same day, two Los Angeles Lakers players and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart were also confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.

As of Saturday morning, more than 19,000 cases have been reported in the U.S., with 260 deaths and 147 people recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

Over 11,400 people have died since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There are over 275,000 cases globally, with more than 88,000 recovered.

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers waits during a 104-102 Brooklyn Nets win at Staples Center on March 10 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty