Should we boycott or should we play?
This is the question looming for NBA players as they weigh a return to the court in the midst of two coinciding pandemics: COVID-19 and racism.
During an impassioned phone call Friday, NBPA board members, franchise players, and top league executives huddled to discuss what a “player bubble” would look like in central Florida. Many questions arose about COVID-19 testing as well as the civil unrest taking place across the world deriving from anti-black racism.
According to reports, NBPA Vice President Kyrie Irving was vocal in his opposition to players traveling down to Orlando to play.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving said, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy.”
Irving added, “I’m willing to give up everything I have (for social reform).”
Irving acknowledged on the call that a lot of players are not in the same financial position as he is. But he made a plea that they consider boycotting the remainder of the season as a way to remove “the distraction” and “entertainment” sports brings, and direct folks to focus instead on the goal of ousting systemic racism. Seventy-four percent of NBA players are black.
Irving also vocalized concerns regarding testing and the mechanics of how living in near-isolation for months would actually work. There is still no clear plan for that yet.
Irving, still recovering from shoulder surgery in February, would not be playing either way. But his argument rang out regardless.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Dwight Howard agreed, urging participants in the meeting to take a stand, to use their collective power to affect change in the justice system and police treatment of black people.
Guard Austin Rivers took to Instagram to echo a similar sentiment to James, writing, “I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement. It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it… but in the right way and not at the cost of the whole NBA and players careers.”
The league is allowing players to choose if they’d like to participate in the restart. Players who voluntarily sit out would lose a portion of their salaries but wouldn’t face any other consequences.
If a player has an injury that results in him being out he would be allowed to see an independent doctor. If he is cleared to play and chooses not to there wouldn’t be any consequences, per Adrian Wojnarowski.