Alex Martins, Jeff Weltman and Steve Clifford met with the media on Thursday morning to discuss the concerns regarding the team and the COVID-19 outbreak that has suspended the NBA season.
“As we’ve said from the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, our top priority is the health and safety of our players, our fans, our staff, our sponsors, anyone that this organization comes in contact with,” Martins, the Magic CEO, told reporters. “I would also say that our league has incredible leadership in our commissioner, in our owners, and we certainly believe that the actions taken last night were the appropriate ones to suspend the season and to make sure that we take that health of our players and our fans and our staff into account.”
The Magic seemed to be at an elevated risk of exposure to the virus after reports on Wednesday showed that the team may have used the same airplane used by the Utah Jazz, who now have two players in Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell who have tested positive for coronavirus. Martins confirmed that the Magic did use the same plane, but the team has been informed by multiple healthcare experts that they have not been exposed and do not require further precautionary measures such as testing or quarantine.
Martins said the Magic were in touch with Delta Airlines, who confirmed that each aircraft is sanitized with Matrix Disinfectant/Cleaner Number #3 Super Concentrate, which he said is specifically designed and FAA-approved for use on airlines and kills coronavirus.
“Delta has confirmed that they sanitized that plane after Utah deplaned, before catering was placed on the plane for our flight home form Memphis, and before they picked up our group in Memphis to bing them home, as well,” Martins said. “All of the physicians independent of one another that we consulted with last night have confirmed that using the same plane as the Utah Jazz does not qualify as exposure and therefore further precautionary measures such as quarantine or testing are not necessary. In addition, all of the aforementioned health experts independently advised us that unless anyone in the travel party had direct contact with the Utah Jazz played that tested positively, there is no exposure and no reason to be quarantined or to be tested.”
Martins also pointed out that CDC guidelines state that no one should be tested unless symptoms are evident (although that is concerning given the fact that Mitchell reportedly showed no symptoms).
The team was instructed to keep players in town and await further instruction on practice and scheduling. Martins would not speculate on the potential cancelation of the regular season or how much revenue the team could lose.
“There’s so many variables to that, we’re not even thinking about that right now,” Martins said. “Again, the most important thing right now is the health and safety of everybody. We’ll deal with those issues when the proper time comes. Again, this is a public health crisis. This is not just touching the NBA, this is touching the county and the world. We need to focus on that and we need to focus on, as a country, on making sure that we slow this down and ultimately stop it.”
The league suspension comes when the Magic were playing some of their best basketball of the season, particularly on the offensive end where they were leading the league in points (120.8) and assists (32.1) over their last 12 games.
“Basketball is secondary right now,” Steve Clifford said when asked of the timing of the stoppage in play. “This is a problem for the country, for the whole world. Health is first and I think our players would agree with that, too. So that’s the mindset we should all have.”
With NBA basketball and Amway Center being shut down indefinitely, there has also been concern for organization and venue staff who will be losing income that is depended on. Mark Cuban first suggested establishing a program to help those effected, and Martins echoed that sentiment.
“In the past in situations like lockouts, the Orlando Magic has always done the right thing,” Martins said. “We will do right by our employees. I can’t sit here and tell you today what that exact policy or procedure will be. But this organization has always done right by its employees and I don’t expect to do anything different this time around.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported that more than 700 team employees were told not to come to work. Martins also said that this weekend’s Orlando Wine Festival and Auction, an annual fundraiser for at-risk children of Central Florida, will be postponed because the gathering of large crowds is not in the best interest of public safety.
Sporting events are being canceled worldwide in hopes of mitigating the spread of the virus, with the NHL also suspending the season, the NCAA canceling conference tournaments and planning to play the Tournament in empty arenas, the ATP suspending play fo six weeks, the PGA Tour playing events without spectators, the MLS suspending its season, and MLB expected to suspend all operations indefinitely.
“It is jarring because it’s bigger than basketball,” Weltman, the Magic president of operations, said. “We all hear these bits of news come across our phones and on TV and the first thing you think of is the safety of your family and those around you, and for us it’s our players and our fans. So we’e all waking up to a new reality today and we have to first and foremost care about the health and safety of all those around us.”
Until that safety can be ensured, we will not see Magic basketball.
“We will get through this,” Martins said. “It’s going to be a challenging time I think in the short term, but we have all the confidence in our leadership, we have all the confidence in our health experts that we will get past this and in due time we’ll be playing NBA basketball again.”