Eating like an NBA player in the “bubble”: A behind-the-scenes look on food delivery program in Orlando

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The NBA stood against racial inequality in different ways. One of those was cutting a deal with several minority-owned businesses in order to provide food services in Orlando.

Various NBA players were upset over food on the Orlando campus, leading the NBA to make a deal in order to satisfy their needs in Orlando, Florida.

Joshua Johnson, owner of the Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food in West Orange County, spoke with Talkbasket.net about keeping pro-athletes well fed in Orlando campus, the process of delivering food inside the “bubble” and the role of the NBA players speaking against racial and social injustice.

The timing of the deal was pretty special, as Johnson opened his restaurant just a few months ago offering a great variety of home-made types of food. He is also using his place as a chance to bring people together with commune tables.

The NBA chose Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food, along with nine other restaurants, to deliver food inside the “bubble”, since the season restart.

“When the players were upset over the food, an NBA official walked in and basically asked if we were interested in being a part of the delivery program,” Johnson said.

“Apparently they had secret eaters come in and eat our food and loved it. We said yes, then we were contacted by someone else to fill out restaurants information for the app the NBA bubble has, then just like that we were available for them to order from, and you most likely know they choose 10 minority owned restaurants.”

With the coronavirus pandemic still being in full effect, delivering food inside an isolated environment could have its challenges, but the personal communication with players is still an important factor for Johnson’s services.

“At first, I had my restaurant phone number on the app for them to call, but then I quickly switched to my personal phone number to give them a more VIP service, so basically they call from their personal phone to make an order, I ask, which hotel, what time, if their team/staff/media, I also give them the ability to just text me, which they absolutely love, the NBA has their own delivery drivers that pick it up it gets delivered, the NBA lets me know it’s delivered, then I text them it’s delivered,” Johnson mentioned.

Many players, journalists and coaches have used the app to order food from Johnson’s restaurant. Among them was the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. But, what’s the most preferred plates that get ordered regularly?

“Red Snapper and Salmon, liquid gold Mac n cheese and greens,” Johnson told us. But, is there any difference serving food to pro athletes.

“Not at all,” Johnson replied. “The NBA is mostly African Americans that grew up on this food, which is a reason why we are so popular, not only do we serve their favorite type of soul foods, we have really good soul food.”

Since the season restart, the NBA made several moves to enhance the fact that athletes took a stand against racial inequality and social injustice, after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

The league gave NBA players the time and space to talk on Black Lives Matter protests, on police brutality and other urgent social matters.

And that’s really important for Johnson, as NBA athletes have the platform to forward the message towards a huge audience.

“It’s a relief, I do understand it’s not their job, I don’t have anything against the ones that chose not to say anything but the players that do are proving it’s more than just basketball for them, billions of people look up to them, they are literally changing the world by speaking out,” Johnson said.

Along with the players, the NBA followed their signal to support black communities in various ways. As a new black restaurant owner, Johnson believes that him working with the NBA shows that any business can come in and work together with a billion-dollar organization, if there is faith from both sides.

“I see it as really big faith and belief because our particular restaurant is very small and new (opened Jan 10th) and our first order was a team order, for the NBA to have faith enough to support our restaurant in that way is unbelievable, I am truly grateful.”

“It has huge impact,” Johnson continued on the impact the NBA has on the local community. “It showed our community that it’s possible for a billion dollar organization come in and work with you, it showed local customers they can indeed eat like LeBron James, it showed the community what listening, learning and growing can do for a business, it can get you on the radar of an organization like the NBA.”

At the end of our interview, the owner of the “Seana’s Caribbean & Soul Food” wanted to send his message to the Orlando community and the reason the NBA chose his restaurant to fill the players’ needs in Orlando.

“I believe one of the other reasons why we were choose, we always give back to the community, we feed the homeless, we had back bag drives, on the wall we have “bringing everyone together”, because I believe my restaurant brings everyone together to enjoy a good meal and just relax. When we feed the homeless, we are bringing people together, now we feed the NBA, we feel like we are bringing the NBA together as well,” Johnson concluded.