CBA Reportedly Threatens Lifetime Ban If American Players Don’t Return to China

While American sporting leagues are suspended indefinitely, the Chinese Basketball Association, or CBA, is operating under the assumption that it’ll resume play in early April. This is a big decision for not only American players who compete in the league but others from across the world. To avoid holdouts, the CBA is taking brash measures to ensure their talent returns by April.

What is the CBA doing? 

The CBA hosts over 40 American athletes, including a handful of notable former NBA players. One of the biggest basketball leagues in the world, the CBA has grown exponentially in recent years. Several players find a second wind there after burning out of the NBA. Now, those players face a tough decision.

As China has begun containing the COVID-19 outbreak, it wants to return to normal as quickly as possible. Rather than play it safe and keep the CBA suspended, the league has decided to adhere to its plans to resume the season in early April. The league confirmed this in a note, which was translated and sent to ESPN

“All clubs and teams are requested to prepare for the restart of CBA League as early as April 2. At the same time, all teams should comply with the relevant requirements of the national and local epidemic prevention and control departments, continue to strengthen the epidemic prevention and control work, do a good job in making detailed and solid security measures such as epidemic prevention and control, and ensure the health and safety of club and team members.”

Is there pushback on the CBA’s ban?

While several players, according to ESPN, were iffy about returning to China, the teams are going scorched earth, claiming that anybody who doesn’t return could be banned from the CBA for life. They also state that agents who represent these clients could lose their licenses for two to three seasons. This leaves players with a hard choice.

The U.S. Department of State has urged its citizens not to travel to China, even suspending American flights to the mainland. Still, just as millions of Americans must grapple with their jobs during a time of economic hardship, these players have to consider the toll this could take on their basketball careers. After all, the CBA is already the fallback plan after leaving the NBA.

Players who sign over to China do so with the understanding that they’ll play there all year. Any players who wanted to return to the U.S. and play would have to talk with the CBA and FIBA. If the teams or organizations play hardball, this could be tough for players with money, health, and families to worry about.

Are there any notable players in China? Are they returning? 

Several fringe NBA players, like Donatas Motiejunas and Pooh Jeter, play in the CBA now. While many had notable college careers stateside, some relatively big names in NBA history play in China. The biggest star is Jeremy Lin. He spent most of last year on the bench with the Atlanta Hawks and World Champion Toronto Raptors. After failing to find a new NBA contract, he went overseas to China. 

Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough were once relatively big names in NBA circles. But they found themselves without any offers to return. Lance Stephenson also failed to secure an NBA contract. (There are rumors the Pacers could be interested in bringing him back once the season restarts.)

All of these players either returned to China or are expected to do. Their financial and professional lives could be at stake if they do not. With so much uncertainty, however, we wonder if the April starting date is just a pipe dream for the CBA.

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