Kyrie Irving Among Players Refusing To Play 2020 NBA Season Amid Covid-19 And Social Justice Movements

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is leading a movement to cancel the NBA’s restart of the 2020 season next month. 

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Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is leading a player movement to skip the NBA’s restart of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic and multiple protests regarding issues of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. The NBA announced recently that they were planning to restart the season with a 22-team format in Orlando, Florida, and Irving immediately responded with a call to players to form their own league instead. 

Irving is acting as a leading voice but the reality is multiple players are uncomfortable with the idea of potentially prematurely starting the season in Disney. In a phone call to fellow players this past week, Irving told his fellow NBA stars that he would be willing to give up everything in order to focus his attention on social reform. Within the same phone call players also voiced their concerns over the health and safety of all players and staff involved in this revival of the 2020 NBA season.

The biggest concern coming from reluctant players is an NBA season taking national focus away from the two major pandemics the world is currently battling; the fight against systemic racism and police brutality directed at black Americans, and Covid-19. Covid-19 specifically is seeing a rise in case numbers in many states, so much so that multiple states are reporting record-breaking single-day spikes in cases. Irving has been joined by other players, such as Los Angeles Lakers Avery Bradley, in creating a coalition of players and NBA staff members who can feel safe enough to voice their concerns within the industry in regards to social justice reform. The group recently released a statement to ESPN.

“This is not about individual players, athletes or entertainers. This is about our group of strong men and women uniting for change.”

A majority of these player coalition meetings take place in online messaging boards, group chats, or conference calls. The players have made calls to the WNBA and entertainment industry as well as a means of “covering all bases” in regards to the black voices and workers that make an basketball game a reality. 

This past Monday Irving and Bradely were among the organizers of a 40-player conference call and last week they organized a call with over 100 players. Within these discussions players, executives, studio workers, etc. have addressed issues the industry is currently facing (covid-19 and systemic racism) and potential compromises to be made so that as many players as possible rejoin their teams by next month.

More recently. Los Angeles Lakers player Dwight Howard made a public statement in which he stood behind Irving and his calls to continue to refuse to play “basketball till we get things resolved.” 

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“I agree with Kyrie, basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction,” Howard claimed. 

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Howard continued on in his statement to claim that while he “would love nothing more than to win [his] very first NBA Championship, the unity of [his] People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just (too) beautiful to pass up.”

The NBA has responded to Irving and all other players calls for concern by releasing their own statement in which they claimed that “a central goal of {their} season restart will be to utilize the NBA’s platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice.” Currently, the season is projected to restart on July 30th. 

22 NBA teams have been invited to Disney in Orlando to play eight-regular season games each before they do a potential play-in tournament for the number 8 seed and a traditional 16-team playoff format with a best-of-seven series, according to NBA reports. Houston Rockets point guard Austin Rivers recently made a statement personally disagreeing with Irvings claim that an NBA season would take attention away from the current issues of racism our country is battling, and instead would do the opposite. 

“Us coming back would be putting money in all our (NBA players) pockets. With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the [Black Lives Matter] movement. Which I’m 100% on board with,” Rivers claimed.

Players such as Irving, Howard, and Bradely are likely not returning to their teams to continue out the 2020 season in Orlando, so like every other sports league in America currently, the future is bleak and unclear. While things like sports, television, and movies in general are a great way to unwind and distract ourselves from the everyday horrors of 2020, it’s necessary to remember what’s really important and happening in the world right now. As Dwight Howard said, “What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families.…. No Basketball till we get things resolved.”

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.