Politics and sports are intersecting in a way they haven’t since 1967, which saw athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell meeting together for a summit on the Vietnam War. Players have more power, more freedom to say what they want to say, and are more socially conscious than ever.
LeBron James has been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims, Carmelo Anthony has made his thoughts on activism known, and even coaches like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr have not only encouraged their teams to speak out, they’ve done so themselves.
During All-Star Weekend, Kyrie Irving joined the fold.
At a brief media availability on Friday evening, Irving was asked about the controversial and discriminatory bathroom bill, HB2, in North Carolina that forces individuals to use bathrooms based on birth certificate gender rather than the gender with which they identify, and also banned cities from non-discriminative laws to protect the LGBT community.
Charlotte, which was set to host the All-Star Game this year until the league moved the game after the bill wasn’t repealed, initially passed an ordinance offering protections for LGBT individuals – and inside the motion was allowing people the freedom to use whichever bathroom they choose. That was what the North Carolina lawmakers focused on, and HB2 moved forward quickly behind former governor Pat McCrory.
Irving chose his words carefully and seemed as though he wasn’t going to answer the question at all or deflect. Instead he pushed forward and gave a thoughtful and measured response.