Kyrie Irving led a conference call on Friday consisting of over 80 players from both the NBA and WNBA, and according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, became the first superstar to directly voice his opposition to restarting the season at Disney. “I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving reportedly said. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”
Other players that reportedly spoke up about potentially sitting out at Disney were Donovan Mitchell, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Avery Bradley also reportedly played a major part in the call. Anthony had previously said that he was “up in the air” on potentially playing in the resumed season, but he wants to give young players a voice in making this decision, and he reportedly urged players on the call to make a $25,000 donation to a cause they believe in. Anthony’s Portland Trail Blazers were the only team to vote no on resuming in Orlando, but did so reportedly because they believed that the NBA could come up with a better competitive format for doing so.
Howard argued that playing would provide the nation a distraction from what is happening right now, and that by unifying, they could use this moment to enact real change. Bradley echoed that sentiment and reportedly suggested that the players “play chess, not checkers,” by utilizing this moment for social justice. Mitchell spoke about the risk of injuries after not having played competitive games in several months.
Another major note from the call relates to fans. NBPA leadership does not expect spectators to be able to attend games in person at all next season, according to Charania.
The WNBA players on the call vowed to support whatever the NBA players decide, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. Irving similarly said that he would support his fellow players if they decided to play.
Those supporting restarting the season are doing so for financial reasons, according to multiple reports, with C.J. McCollum as one of the players speaking on that front. The force majeure clause in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement gives ownership the right to void the entire CBA if games are not played. It is widely expected that they would do so if the season is not finished knowing that players would hold very little leverage in negotiating a new deal. There is a very strong possibility that this route would lead to a lockout.
These talks are, for the moment, ongoing. Nothing is finalized. But for the past week, a return has seemed like a certainty. Now? Everything is up in the air as the players must decide if they are comfortable playing basketball in light of everything else that is happening in the world.