NBA snitch hotline draws criticism, praise

WINNER: Dwight Howard says he's already a winner because he's in the NBA. Gina Ferazzi/Tribune News Service

For much of his first week at Walt Disney World, Lakers center Dwight Howard broadcast his experiences with a smile.

On Instagram, he gave thousands of followers a live look inside the NBA’s testing process, a sparsely attended party at the resort’s Mayan-themed pool and a game of Connect Four. Howard was one of several NBA players to seriously consider whether they wanted to participate in the resumption of the season, but once in Orlando, Florida, he appeared to be enjoying himself.

Late Wednesday night, however, Howard was back on Instagram Live, this time with a furrowed brow. Someone, he said, had reported him for not wearing a face mask on the property.

“I’m around nobody,” Howard said to the camera. “Am I supposed to wear a mask?”

It was the first known instance of a player suggesting he’d been the target of the hotline created by the league to receive anonymous tips about possible violations of the voluminous health and safety protocols that govern daily life during the league’s attempted restart. Anyone living inside the NBA’s bubble can access the “NBA Campus Hotline” through an app created by the league, where tips can be reported with a call or a text.

Among players and coaches, the so-called “snitch hotline” has been the source of derision and jokes as well as some respect.

“C’mon now, do I look like a player that has used that hotline?” Clippers center Montrezl Harrell said Wednesday.

A day later, Memphis rookie Ja Morant said he, too, wouldn’t find any use for it.

“I see nothing, I hear nothing,” Morant told reporters. “I ain’t saying nothing.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers joked that, one week into his Disney stay, he had already used it to turn in Lakers star LeBron James and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“I’m trying to turn all these guys in. I think it’s phenomenal,” Rivers said. “We’re going to be the only team left when I’m done with this hotline thing.”

Rivers quickly pivoted to a more serious tone. Outside the Disney gates, cases of the coronavirus continue to be reported at unprecedented levels in Florida. No one on the Disney World campus knows whether the 22-team experiment will last. Thus, the league created 113 pages of protocols and a system of accountability, of which the hotline is just one piece. Teams are required to report to the league any potential or actual violations by players or staff. Players can also choose to report violations to their team or the players union.

Masks must be worn by anyone on campus except while they are inside their room, eating or drinking, during physical activity or while “engaged in an individual activity outdoors … that is not within six feet of another person from whom the player or staff member is required to maintain physical distance,” according to the league.

“This is not some normal thing,” Rivers said. “COVID, obviously, it’s not only that you can get sick but you can get other people sick, and so this is very important for all of us. We want to do our jobs. So I think having a hotline, I guess that’s what they’re calling it, I guess that’s important.”

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