Report: Kyrie Irving Leading Players Who Believe NBA Restart Is Bad Optics

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 12, 2020

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12: An NBA logo is shown at the 5th Avenue NBA store on March 12, 2020 in New York City. The National Basketball Association said they would suspend all games after player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

A number of NBA players are unhappy the league is planning an isolated return to play amid the social unrest across the United States.

Per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, there are players who "believe it's bad optics for a league comprised predominantly of black men" to play basketball games in a single location "merely to entertain the masses and ease the league's economic burden" given the protests happening around the country.

According to Bleacher Report's Howard BeckBrooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been a "driving force" in organizing the calls and voicing concern. Haynes added:

Chris Haynes @ChrisBHaynes

As @TaylorRooks, @HowardBeck reports, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has organized a call tonight for players to discuss what position they should take. He’s of mindset that during racial tension, not returning to play should be considered, sources say. https://t.co/8W8VaZMxQh

A "respected NBA player" told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski: "Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to 'who did what' in the game last night. It’s a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that to impact what’s happening in our communities."

Haynes also noted that "a significant number" of players were upset with how the union conducted its vote last Friday about returning to play in Orlando, Florida, starting next month.

After the NBA board of governors voted by a 29-1 margin to approve the 22-team restart plan, the NBPA board of player representatives approved it the following day.

The NBPA board of player representatives only includes one player from each team.

Haynes noted some players have been "reluctant to express their views in fear of opposing the superstars who are adamant about playing if proper safety measures are in place."

Wojnarowski reported this week that a faction of "40 to 50 players" took part in conference calls to express their concerns about resuming the season for a variety of reasons, including social unrest in the country.

Per Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks, approximately 150 players are expected to take part in a Zoom call Friday "to solidify" what they can do to take a stand and unify their message. Beck later noted that approximately 200 players could participate in the call.

Howard Beck @HowardBeck

There's growing concern re NBA's bubble plan. Players want more freedom of movement while in Orlando. One agent estimates that 2/3 of the top 40 would refuse to play under the proposed restrictions. https://t.co/IrM5MHPu5e

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma and Jared Dudley weighed in on the matter:

kuz @kylekuzma

Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted.... https://t.co/GoRnvy6rzN

Jared Dudley @JaredDudley619

Facts! What time is this zoom call today! I’m on it! https://t.co/5IDd1mKRv6

According to Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, "several high-profile players" have held discussions with other players on the potential financial ramifications of not finishing the season: 

Vincent Goodwill @VinceGoodwill

Yahoo Sources: Several high profile players are communicating with their counterparts and educating them on potential negative financial impact not playing would have on the players, not just for this season but moving forward. (Cont’d)

Vincent Goodwill @VinceGoodwill

Yahoo sources cont’d: The high profile players are also relaying that the NBPA won’t have any leverage negotiating a new CBA with owners in the middle of a pandemic

Vincent Goodwill @VinceGoodwill

Yahoo sources: Several players are planning to be creative and use the global attention the NBA platform provides to promote and support the Black Lives Matter movement when the league returns to play

Other issues of concern were the coronavirus pandemic and being unable to leave the Wide World of Sports resort in Orlando for as long as three months depending on how far teams advance in the postseason.

Per Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks, the NBA is planning to resume regular-season games July 30.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Tobias Harris and Donovan Mitchell are among the NBA stars who have taken part in protests over the past two weeks and whose teams are included in the 22-team restart plan.