WNBA announces plans to conduct season with bubble league in Florida

The WNBA is coming back.

The league announced plans on Monday to tip off the 2020 season with a bubble league at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Instead of the usual 34-game slate, the regular season will consist of 22 games before a normal playoff format. The league’s season opener was originally scheduled for May 15 before being postponed because of COVID-19. The league did not announce an exact return date on Monday, but is targeting late July.

Reduced schedule, full salary

Players will receive their full salaries for the season.

The WNBA and IMG are still finalizing the details of their partnership, according to the announcement. Players are scheduled to report to Bradenton in early July for training camp before the season tips off. Fans will not be in attendance.

Like the NBA, the WNBA is planning its return to the court at a single site in Florida in July.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

League’s statment on COVID-19 safety

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert wrote in the statement that the league will be constantly consulting health experts as it moves forward with its season.

“We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan,” Engelbert wrote.

WNBA addresses social justice concerns

The league also announced that it “will build on its commitment to social justice and will support players in launching a bold social justice platform” in response to the reckoning on race relations taking place in the United States after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The statement arrives after a faction of WNBA and NBA players led by Kyrie Irving reportedly expressed concerns about resuming their season, arguing that they should focus on efforts to advance the cause instead of playing basketball.

COVID-19 continues to grow in Florida

Bradenton is on Florida’s central Gulf Coast, just south of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The NBA season is slated to resume in late July about 100 miles northeast at the Disney World complex outside of Orlando.

Florida continues to play host to events as the epicenter of re-opening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. UFC hosted its return to action in Jacksonville on May 12, one of the first major sporting events held after the pandemic took hold in the United States.

COVID-19 continues to expand in Florida after reopening plans were initiated six weeks ago alongside increased testing. The state reported record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases for three consecutive days last week.

Meanwhile, the United States claims more than 2.1 million of the world’s nearly 8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with more than 115,000 of the planet’s confirmed 434,000 deaths attributed to the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.

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