Damian Lillard launched a shot at Gov. Kate Brown all the way from Cleveland on Tuesday, lamenting her decision to bar fans from attending Portland Trail Blazers games at the Moda Center.
Lillard, the Blazers star and arguably the most popular man in Oregon, complained Tuesday on Twitter that the Blazers remain the only team in the National Basketball Association that can’t allow fans in the arena.
“So we gone be the only damn team in the whole league with no fans,” Lillard wrote, as the Blazers arrived in Cleveland for the last of a six-game road trip.
His backcourt teammate CJ McCollum soon chimed in: “Wonder why we got a better record on the road.” He added a laughing emoji.
The Blazers’ front office submitted a plan to the governor’s office last month that would allow a limited number of fans in the arena, and they’ve been testing the logistics with team employees. The Oregonian reported last week that Brown’s office approved the Moda Center plan—then rescinded that approval when Multnomah County entered an “extreme risk” category last week amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Fans had been allowed last month to return in small numbers to Thorns and Timbers soccer matches at Providence Park—but were barred with the renewed lockdown.
By the slimmest of margins, Brown averted a second week of restrictions on Tuesday and will reopen indoor dining and other gathering spaces starting May 7.
Her office told the Thorns and Timbers fans could return this weekend—and signaled to WW that the Blazers might be allowed at least some fans in the arena.
“Updates to guidance for indoor venues had been on hold while counties were in Extreme Risk,” wrote Brown’s spokesman Charles Boyle. “We will be issuing revised indoor capacity limits tomorrow with counties returning to High Risk on Friday.”
The Oregonian reported Tuesday evening that the decision had been made—it’s “yes” to 10% capacity in the Moda Center. Neither the governor’s office nor the Blazers front office would confirm that report.
Oregon Senate Republicans taunted Brown on Tuesday evening, saying she only relented because Lillard criticized her.
Lillard’s comments signal the scale of frustration with Brown’s reopening timeline. That’s meaningful not only because his bully pulpit is so large, but because the Blazers have largely been on board with state messaging on COVID-19.
The Blazers have played in front of an empty arena for the entire season. They became one of the first NBA teams to get most players vaccinated, getting their shots early by snagging excess doses from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
The first day the team could allow fans in the Moda Center? Friday, when the Blazers are scheduled to host… the Los Angeles Lakers.