Report: Kyrie Irving leads conference call on NBA’s return, systemic racism

Kyrie Irving led a players-only conference call centred on unity, systemic racism and investing in communities with over 80 basketball players from the NBA and WNBA, according to multiple reports from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The call featured many prominent players, including Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Donovan Mitchell and Dwight Howard, according to Charania.

Players spoke for an hour and forty minutes, Haynes reported, during which a wide range of opinions were voiced, questions were answered and a common theme emerged that “whatever we do, we’re in this together.”

Irving and several other players, including Mitchell, Anthony and Howard, spoke out about the possibility of sitting out the NBA’s return-to-play plan due to the current nationwide unrest from social injustice and racism as well as COVID-19 issues, according to Charania.

Paul and Garrett Temple, both of whom hold positions with the NBPA, offered insight, too, Charania said, including that it is believed no fans will be permitted into games for the entire 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t support going to Orlando,” Irving said, according to Charania. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the [expletive]. Something smells a little fishy.

“I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform].”

Though he was vocal about his preference being not going to Orlando, Irving said he would ultimately stand with the group if they decided to play, Haynes reported. Wojnarowski added that one player told him in a text that Irving is “trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity…It’s a good call.”

Shortly after the reports surfaced, Mitchell quote-tweeted one tweet that claimed he spoke about possibly sitting out, writing “Stop it” in an apparent rebuke of the reporting.

Throughout the call, players offered wide-ranging perspectives on the league’s return-to-play plan, according to Haynes, with some preferring the season does not resume and citing financial ramifications as a reason for why it would. The WNBA players spoke on their league issues, too, Haynes said, and vowed to stand in unity with the NBA players.

The call comes after earlier reports on Friday said a “significant number” of NBA players were disappointed that they were not given a chance to vote on the NBA’s return-to-play plan.

On Wednesday, Wojnarowski said there was a growing number of players questioning the return-to-play plan unveiled by the NBA last week, which would see 22 teams quarantined at Disney World. Wojnarowski also reported that amid players’ discussions, there was also talk of a possible agreement made between the NBA and NBPA that would not make participation mandatory for players choosing to stay home.

Health is an issue highlighted by both Haynes and Wojnarowski — and one NBC’s Tom Haberstroh wrote about more in-depth on Friday. While players themselves are to be quarantined in the “bubble” of Disney World, the Florida site’s staff will not. Per Haberstroh, Disney workers have not been told to quarantine on campus, and daily testing for these employees would be “unlikely.”

This, at a time when COVID-19 cases in Orange County, Fla. — the county in which Disney World is located — have jumped again.

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