Kyrie Irving hosted a high-profile conference call with more than 80 players on Friday night, during which he reportedly took a stance against the league’s plan to restart the season in Orlando next month, suggesting that an NBA return would distract from the nationwide movement for equal justice and a torrent of civil unrest that comes along once in a generation.
Part of the impetus for the call was to also give space for some of the less-prominent players around the league to have their voices heard on the matter, given the immense financial and social pressure placed on them to fall in line after the NBPA’s unanimous vote to resume play, following what will have been a four-and-a-half-month hiatus.
Several big-name stars joined the Zoom call on Friday, including Carmelo Anthony, union president Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Donovan Mitchell, among others. Noticeably absent was LeBron James, who has long been a vocal proponent of a return to action. In the wake of that call, details have emerged about why LeBron reportedly chose not to participate.
Because sources say James, whose Lakers have as good a chance at the title as any of the 22 teams invited to Walt Disney World, believes playing in Orlando won’t deter his ability to continue inspiring change.
He wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time.
There are a number of talking points on either side of this. As so many current and former players have taken front and center in the protests, their sudden absence from the scene could dampen the visibility of the movement and dilute its impact. On the other hand, players could transfer those efforts to the television platform they’ll be afforded with the return of the games.
In the aftermath of Friday’s call, there was little clarity about whether those involved have moved toward anything resembling a unified stance against playing the games in Orlando. For now, the restart will proceed as planned. The dissenting players would have to make significant traction in the coming weeks on a bid to come together collectively to stop the restart, the financial implications of which would be enormous for all parties.