Will the NBA really play?
League appears on track to restart next month despite protests.
While Kyrie Irving is leading a contingent of NBA players arguing they should not resume play in Orlando and instead focus on social justice reform, there are signs the NBA is on track to compete at ESPN Wide World of Sports later this summer.
Irving reportedly helped lead two player phone meetings on Friday and Monday, arguing something “smelled fishy” about resuming play rather than devoting all time to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I don’t support going to Orlando,” Irving said during a call Friday, according to The Athletic. “I’m not with the systematic racism.”
Former Winter Park High star Austin Rivers, who plays for the Houston Rockets, was among those who tried to respectfully push back in favor of using the Orlando games as a stage to push for change.
“Us coming back would put money in all … [NBA players’] pockets,” Rivers wrote. “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement. Which I’m 100% on board with. Because change needs to happen and injustice has been going on too long.”
Irving is out for the rest of the season due to injury and is among the league’s higherpaid players.
Rivers posted he knew numerous players need their paychecks and wrote Irving had made more money than “99%” of the league.
“I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement,” Rivers wrote. “It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it … but not at the cost of the whole NBA and players’ careers. We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived. I think we have [to]!
“But canceling and boycotting [a] return doesn’t do that in my opinion. Guys want to
play and provide and help change !!!! ”
Dwight Howard, a backup Lakers center and former Orlando Magic All-Star, has been vocal about not playing.
Howard sent a lengthy statement to CNN opposing the Orlando tournament.
“I agree with Kyrie [Irving]. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction,” Howard wrote.
His agent later said Howard had not yet made a final decision on whether he would play in Orlando.
NBA officials said Sunday they are working to address player comments.
“We understand the players’ concerns and are working with the Players Association on finding the right balance to address them,” league spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
The NBA Players Association has been meeting with players about their social justice concerns, according to ESPN.
Lakers star LeBron James, who has been outspoken on social justice issues and is developing initiatives to support Black Lives Matter, has been on board with the plan to resume play in Orlando.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley posted on Twitter Sunday that the players would follow James’ lead.
“Hoopers say what y’all want. If @KingJames said he hooping. We all hooping,” Beverley posted on Twitter. “Not Personal only BUSINESS.”
Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers, a Winter Park High alum, said he supports resuming play in Orlando despite some player concerns about the plan. “We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived,” Rivers said.