NBA Players Face Difficult Choice Regarding Rio Olympics
By Ian Smith
All it takes is one person to speak up for a point of view to really gain traction. Pau Gasol has openly said what many others have surely considered, and now the world will have to evaluate at what point safety gets set aside for economic profit.
Gasol has been linked to the San Antonio Spurs as a free agent, but like many other players whose NBA seasons have ended, he’s currently focusing his attention on preparing for the Olympics. Or in this case, perhaps avoiding them.
He evokes the warnings of 150 health specialists to either postpone the games or move them due to the risk of the Zika virus, and claims that he is thinking about not attending the games due to the risks.
The virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause possible neurological problems in adults as well as severe birth defects in children.
This is a very serious dilemma that athletes around the world will have to make a personal decision on. They train their whole lives for an opportunity to compete on the world’s biggest stage and represent their country, but is national pride and athletic achievement worth putting the health of you and your family in danger?
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With Rio de Janeiro set to host the Summer Olympics from August 5-21, it seems too late for any cancellation, postponement, or relocation. Assuming nothing changes, those games are going to be held, and athletes from around the world will have a major decision to make not only regarding their careers in sport, but also their future off the field.
Many NBA players have the chance to participate in the Olympics if they make the final cuts of their national teams, including Spurs players Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Boban Marjanovic.
Each guy will have to make the choice about whether the possibility of contracting the Zika virus is worth representing your country in the Olympics. In Gasol’s case, it could cause Spain to be without one of its most celebrated players.
Gasol is not making any bold declarations or judgements, and only seeks transparency from Olympic officials and those within the medical community to assess the risk.
Gasol is voicing the fears that a lot of athletes have, and he should be applauded for cautioning others about the dangers that athletes can put themselves in if they attend.
Although it may sound cynical to assume that the Olympic organizers value economic concerns over health risks, the fact is there remains much uncertainty about what degree of danger the virus actually poses to athletes competing.
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Gasol brings relevant points to light, and it will be up to individual athletes to decide how they proceed, because it’s unlikely that these games aren’t going to be held come August 5, 2016 in Rio.