By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Anyone who’s paid attention to how Kyrie Irving acts off the court saw it coming. Unfortunately, his fellow players who elected him VP of the players association did not. He wasn’t going to be the right person to unite the players, and we’re seeing it play out at the worst possible time.
That’s why everyone should watch the above video and listen to what former Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins has to say about Irving’s latest antics. There’s a reason the NBA’s most prominent and respected reporter described him as “the disruptor.” After the players agreed unanimously on a vote to bring the season back, Irving suddenly started convincing a contingent of players that they shouldn’t play and go fight for social justice instead.
A noble cause. But without actually doing what he’s saying he would do, Kyrie is just spilling a bunch of empty platitudes. It smells like gasoline and he’s holding the match.
In other words, the Kyrie Irving Experience.
“I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform],” Kyrie said on a call with players, as described by Shams Charania. Well, actions speak louder than words. So that’s why Perkins is calling for Kyrie to put his money where his mouth is.
“It just looks bad on our union, because guess what the owners are doing? The owners are sitting back laughing, saying ‘Ooh, we cant wait ’til the next CBA, because look at them, they’re not together. Which we’re not right now, as a players association,” Perkins said.
He went on to reference former Minnesota Lynx player Maya Moore, who spent years engaging communities to tackle social issues. Moore stepped away from the WNBA in 2019 to focus on activism full-time. Her Players Tribune articles translated to real action. It’s time to see if Kyrie’s words translate to anything at all.
“He said he’s willing to [give it all up] … don’t be willing, this ain’t the time to be willing, do it,” Perkins said. “Maya Moore – she wasn’t ‘willing,’ she did it. She walked away from the game of basketball and took this on full-time. So Kyrie, take the time. This ain’t the time to be talking about ‘Ohh, I’m willing to do it.’ No, if you’re going to make a stance, do it, or don’t talk about it.”
Joining the chorus is retired NBA player Matt Barnes. He claimed on an Instagram Live broadcast that the real reason for Irving’s upheaval within the players association is that the NBA wasn’t going to let him go to Disney World. Sadly, that’s pretty easy to believe. Kyrie and self-serving word salads go well together.
No one should tell Kyrie he’s wrong for believing in fighting racial injustice. He said the right thing. But people should be judged by what they do rather than what they say. Sometimes the two are intertwined. In the case of Kyrie, his words represent the actions of a man who’s disrupting an NBA season that was so damn close to returning.
The NBA will have an opportunity to be the biggest platform in the world for battling injustice. Kyrie could let the season start and go do what he says he’s willing to do. The division he’s sowing within the players may or may not threaten to take that away. But it’s entirely possible to have both.
There’s an honorable example in this league, in this very city. Celtics guard Jaylen Brown has certainly spoken out on his social media pages. But he also converted his words into action. He drove 15 hours to his home state of Georgia to participate prominently in peaceful protests. This is a man who should have a bigger voice in basketball, who has earned our respect.
Kyrie says he’s willing to give it all up – presumably that also means the $120 million-plus he’s earned over his NBA career – to join the cause. Kyrie donated to food banks earlier this year, a gesture more honorable and relevant than any statement and a sign that he truly does care about something. Now he says he wants to give up the rest for the biggest battle in the country right now.
So, like Perk said, go do it. Just don’t bring the NBA down with you.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.