The Brooklyn guard voiced his opposition to returning to league play on a call with more than 80 players from both the NBA and WNBA on Friday.
22 of 30 teams will participate. But it seems there’s no clear consensus amongst players over their return. In fact, according to a report from The Athletic, Kyrie Irving led a call with more than 80 players from both the NBA and WNBA, urging them to stand with social justice protestors and sit out of the season restart.”I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy,” Irving reportedly said in the conference call. The report also noted Irving claimed to be “willing to give up everything” in pursuit of substantive structural reforms.
The Brooklyn guard wasn’t the only one voicing opposition to stepping on the court in July. The call was attended by Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley, who caped for a “chess not checkers” approach, hoping players would seize the moment and use the boycott as leverage. Anthony backed Avery’s stance and challenged those on the call to make a $25,000 donation to organizations aiding social justice reforms.
One player who was noticeably absent from the call is arguably the league’s biggest star (and Irving’s former teammate,) Lebron James. According to the New York Post, the Lakers forward is advocating for a return league play in Orlando, arguing players have a larger platform with the added visibility from the season’s resumption. James also reportedly founded a voting rights group with business partner Maverick Carter, focusing on registering new black voters ahead of November’s presidential election.
On the call, players also discussed safety and health concerns related to their return during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Florida is one of 25 states seeing upticks in COVID-19 cases in the few weeks since reopening. It’s unclear how that will influence the NBA’s choice in a site for the remainder of the season. But sources say the league won’t subject players to any disciplinary measures should they choose to stay home. Players will, however, be docked a portion of their salary for any games missed.