Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving reportedly opposes the NBA restart plan, and he lobbied fellow players on Friday to sit out the scheduled resumption of play as a protest against racism, multiple media outlets reported.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving told more than 80 NBA players on a conference call, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the [expletive]. Something smells a little fishy. … I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform].”
Turner Sports’ Taylor Rooks tweeted, “Sources tell me majority of the NBA call was on social justice reform. It lasted for about two hours, but over an hour was dedicated to that. While they are absolutely all concerned about COVID and that was a vital part of conversation. Racial injustice is the #1 talking point.”
An unnamed “widely respected” player told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to who did what in the game last night. It’s a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that and impact what’s happening in our communities.
“We are asking ourselves, ‘Where and how can we make the biggest impact?’ Mental health is part of the discussion, too, and how we handle all of that in a bubble.”
Plan calls for teams to be sequestered at Disney World
Some star players on the call shared their view that sitting out the remainder of the season would adversely impact their economic outlook not just this season but moving forward, according to Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. The report added that the stars warned their peers that the players union’s leverage is low in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes’ reported that Irving said he would support the players if they decided to proceed with the scheduled restart near Orlando.
The league plan calls for 22 teams with a chance to advance in the playoffs to be sequestered at the Walt Disney World Resort. Players will be restricted in where they can go, and Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck reported that many players could refuse to play because they “want more freedom of movement.”
The National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee and board members last week approved the NBA plan. Training camp is set to be held July 9-29 before the season restarts July 30. Game 7 of the NBA Finals could be played as late as Oct. 12.
However, some players reportedly are concerned about health hazards amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the league to halt the season on March 11. The racial unrest following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month has added to players’ discontent.