By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After rumors earlier in the day indicated that Kyrie Irving was the ‘driving force’ behind a player-led pushback against resuming the NBA season in Orlando later this summer, Irving’s stance was by all means confirmed via The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Leading a call featuring over 80 NBA players on Friday night, Irving was one of many who spoke up about not supporting the idea of returning to the court this season due to the unrest due to social injustices following a string of incidents that have exposed the systemic racism issues still troubling life in the United States.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in March, said on the call. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy.”
Irving, one of the vice presidents of the NBPA, also noted that he was willing to give up everything he had for social reform.
The social issues at play comes amid protests for criminal justice reform, with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the midst of its strongest push, and with nearly every powerful corporate and league in the country both acknowledging and pledging to actually do something about these issues.
It’s worth mentioning that Irving was not the first or only player to bring these issues up on the call on Friday, according to multiple reports, and that a player expressed similar sentiments to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes earlier in the day.
“What message are we sending by agreeing to this during this time?” an unnamed black player told Haynes on Friday morning. “We’re out here marching and protesting, and yet we all leave our families in these scary times and gather to perform at a place where the owners won’t be at? What type of sense does that make? We’ll be going backwards. That place isn’t that magical.”
But Irving also brought up the financial component of the league’s potential move to Orlando, according to veteran NBA reporter Jeff Goodman. “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that,” Irving said on the call, according to Goodman. “Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.”
While the players themselves seem somewhat torn on Irving’s message and what the players should do moving forward, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted that one player actually thought the mercurial superstar made the right call to have everybody talk about the various issues facing the players upon a potential return.
“He’s trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity,” a player texted Woj. “It’s a good call.”
These Irving-led calls come a week after the NBPA voted to approve the league’s 22-team return at Disney World.