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As Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving prepares to help lead a call with rank-and-file members of the National Basketball Players Association on Friday night concerning the league’s plan to restart the season at a bubble site in Orlando, Florida, the guard is apparently at odds with some of his fellow colleagues across the NBA.
Just ahead of the call Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Irving’s reputation as a “disruptor” in some league circles. Wojnarowski wrote:
“Irving is expected to be a significant voice on a call Friday night that’s expected to include a significant percentage of the league’s players, sources said. Irving’s been a leader in sharing his thoughts on race and wealth in America, asking how precisely a predominately black group of NBA players should proceed in this climate of racial transformation in the country.
“Irving has forged a reputation as a disruptor within his NBA career, and that’s emerging again at this crucial moment for the NBA. Irving’s stance has pitted himself against the league’s establishment one more time, including his former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James. There’s significant support to resume the season among the league’s superstars—most of whom are on playoff contenders—and Irving seems to be relishing the clash.”
Woj later spoke to one player who detailed Irving’s message on Friday’s call: “He’s trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity…It’s a good call.”
Among the examples Wojnarowski points to with Irving, many stem from a recent call the NBPA held to vote on the NBA’s plan for a 22-team restart at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.
While the players were discussing other portions of the proposal, Irving, who serves as an elected vice president of the NBPA, instead pressed on what Wojnarowski described as “mundane” issues. Wojnarowski reports Irving asked if he would be allowed to join Brooklyn for the trip to Orlando despite being out for the season with a shoulder injury. Irving then reportedly wondered if he would be allowed to use a sauna at the complex, if he could sit in the stands and cheer his teammates or if sponsors would be allowed to send “adult beverages” to players and what the food setup would be like in Orlando.
The NBPA voted 28-0, approving the league’s plan.
Yet Irving’s concerns have only intensified in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Woj notes players are now discussing “the limitations of freedom in the proposed bubble, the value of the remaining season for many teams and players, the risk of sickness and injury, and yes, the pain, anguish and determination of communities throughout the country on the issues of police brutality and racial equality.”
“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,” one NBA player told Wojnarowski. “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.”
The report notes the league’s superstars are all on board for resuming the season, but that won’t happen without a full spectrum of players agreeing to join them in Orlando.
Friday night’s call may end up widening the divide between the two sides.