Rudy Gobert reflects on microphone incident: ‘If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do it’

Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19 in March marked a turning point in our understanding of the pandemic. It set off a rapid chain of events in the sports industry that mirrored the world’s sudden scramble as people began to grasp the gravity of the coronavirus.

At the beginning of that week, many U.S. states had yet to record a single COVID-19 case. By the end of that week, most pro leagues were paused and the illness was spreading through the country at an out-of-control rate.

Gobert became an unwitting symbol of an initial struggle to see the seriousness of COVID-19. His infamous microphone incident, when he jokingly touched every reporter’s recording device at a news conference just before becoming sick, led to widespread scorn.

In a sit-down with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Gobert again looked back on what happened in the interview room among other events early in the pandemic.

“It came from a good intention,” Gobert said. “It was the first day that we found out that the media was not going to be able to interview us, right next to us, and, you know, we obviously didn’t know as much as we know now, and I only did that to try to liven the mood a little bit. It was, of course, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do it.”

Fallout from the microphone gaffe focused on bashing Gobert for his initial ignorance, but he made it clear his perspective changed quickly.

The unknowns of COVID-19 added to his level of concern when he tested positive. He recalled reaching out to his mom to let her know of his result and her emotional reaction.

“When I found out that I was positive, the first thought that came to my mind was I need to call my mother and make sure that she gets the news from me,” Gobert told ESPN. “It was really important for me to tell her — that she hears my voice and she actually knows that I’m doing OK. She was asleep at the time because of the time difference. So I kept calling, kept calling, until she ended up answering. Because I told myself that I didn’t want to go to sleep until I had told her and that she was able to hear my voice.”

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