On Friday, Nets guard Kyrie Irving reportedly led a conference call with over 80 fellow NBA players, including Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. On the call, Irving, who is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in February, expressed his opposition to the league's plan to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
"I don’t support going into Orlando," Irving reportedly said. "I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls--t. Something smells a little fishy."
Charania reports that Irving also said he's "willing to give up everything" for social reform.
On the call, other players spoke up about their concerns with the league's return-to-play plan, which includes 22 teams heading to Orlando to resume the regular season before starting the playoffs. Play would begin on July 30, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
On Friday's call, some players had reservations about returning to play, and discussed possibly sitting out due to COVID-19 concerns. Another issue is the unrest stemming from racial injustices around the country.
Other players on the call reportedly include: Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, Portland’s CJ McCollum, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Indiana’s Justin Holiday, San Antonio’s Rudy, Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Orlando’s Al-Farouq Aminu, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Utah’s Mike Conley Jr., Portland’s Zach Collins and Indiana’s Myles Turner. Former NBA player and NBPA executive Roger Mason Jr. was also on the call, according to Charania.
Irving has reportedly been very vocal about efforts made by the National Basketball Players Association to unify the players and the league on sponsorship and endorsement money. Friday's call was Irving's way to question the norms of the NBPA, per Charania.
Though multiple Lakers players are part of the growing movement to sit out the league's restart plan in Orlando to protest social injustice, Charania reports that LeBron James is not one of them.
The league is reportedly not requiring its players to participate in the season restart if they are uncomfortable doing so. Players who voluntarily sit out would lose a portion of their salaries, but would otherwise face no consequences.
If a player has a medical issue that could lead to him being excused from playing in Orlando, he would be allowed to see an independent doctor for an examination. Even if he was cleared to play, the player could still abstain from participating without consequence, per Wojnarowski.
Other topics discussed on the call included Mitchell's concerns for players facing injury risks after a long break from competition, as well as the NBPA's leadership stating "it is believed no fans will be permitted into games for the entire 2020-21 season," reports Charania.