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Report: The NBA Will Have Doctors Review Medical Histories For High-Risk Players And Coaches

Since the first rumors about a possible bubble league for the NBA cropped up, one of the chief concerns among those involved has been what to do with older personnel — especially coaches — who are at a higher risk for serious complications should they contract COVID-19. That has seemingly not yet been addressed, with Adam Silver walking back a statement he made on TNT about not having coaches over 65 in the bubble, and the ongoing friction between the league and its coaches continued Wednesday with the news that the NBA league office will ask teams to submit personal health records for everyone coming to Orlando in order to determine risk on a case-by-case basis.

According to a report from Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN, “NBA team personnel are expected to be asked to submit personal medical histories to a panel of physicians who would review their individual risk of serious illness due to any spread of coronavirus in the NBA’s bubble environment in Orlando.”

However, many labor and health-related issues crop up when an employer begins to ask employees for personal health history, even during the time of COVID-19. Rick Carlisle, one of the head coaches who will head to Orlando next month to coach the Mavericks, is also the president of the coaches’ association. He’s recently had to fight to protect some of the older coaches in the NBA while also ensuring their labor freedoms are not infringed upon by the league.

While an optimistic perspective would indicate both Carlisle and NBA coaches, as well as the league office, are all fighting to protect coaches, it’s a slipper slope toward health-based discrimination. A cursory understanding of HIPAA guidelines calls into question the legality of the NBA asking for such information and providing it to a third-party panel, though many such rules have changed during this pandemic. Even the best intentions, though, can lead to problems between employers and their workers, even within high-profile sports leagues.

Per ESPN: “Forcibly excluding such personnel could implicate both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and (perhaps more important) the Americans with Disabilities Act, experts said.”

Simply put, the league has to balance not violating labor or health law while also figuring out how bets to ensure the health and safety of older head coaches such as Gregg Popovich, Mike D’Antoni or Alvin Gentry, all of whom fall into the primary risk category according to the CDC. If any of them have pre-existing health conditions, their risk only worsens.

This is one of the things you might have hoped would be sorted out prior to the league and players voting to resume play, but at least it appears both sides are working to find a tenable solution.