Last week, the NBA and the NBPA voted to approve the proposed plan to resume the season in late July, with all personnel involved slated to be under quarantine protocols for up to three-and-a-half months in a bubble location at the Disney World Resort in Orlando.
However, a significant number of players have reportedly cooled in that idea, citing various concerns about both the safety measures that will be necessary to do so responsibly, as well as the implications of distracting attention from the ongoing protests that have gripped the country in a renewed fight for equal justice following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Kyrie Irving hosted a conference call with approximately 80 players via Zoom on Friday night to discuss their concerns about the restart, including what it would look like — individually and collectively — to opt out of participating in Orlando later this summer. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving reportedly came out against the restart, in part insinuating that it would distract from the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.
Kyrie Irving told NBA players on call Friday, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium: “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy.”
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
Irving himself has said previously that he won’t suit up for the Nets when the season resumes, as he is still rehabbing from an injury that required season-ending surgery earlier this year. Because of that, Irving would still receive pay. Other healthy players who decline to join their teams in the restart, however, would not, which puts a disproportionate amount of pressure on the league’s lower-tier players, a disparity that Irving also addressed.
Sources: It was a wide-ranging call with 80 or so NBA players, and multiple voices. Kyrie, CP3, Melo all vocal.
One quote from Kyrie: “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that. Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.”
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) June 13, 2020
In the reports trickling in immediately after the call, it remained unclear if there was anything resembling a consensus among the rest of the players involved, although the WNBA has apparently decided to follow the NBA’s lead on this.
Yahoo Sources: Players offered different perspectives with some in favor of not returning-to-play and those citing financial ramifications as a reason for a season resumption. The WNBA players spoke on their league issues and vowed to stand in unity with the NBA players.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 13, 2020
Many have pointed out that a unified stance against resuming the season could ultimately constitute a lockout and therefore a renegotiation of the current collective bargaining agreement, which would result in major financial implications and could delay the start of the following season. Irving, however, expressed his own willingness to accept those consequences.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 13, 2020
Still, it remains unclear what will come of Friday night’s conference call, as the planned restart has suddenly been called into question despite what had previously looked like widespread agreement among both the league and the players.