Kyrie Irving Commits $1.5M to Support WNBA Players Who Opted Out of 2020 Season

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2020

Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in New York. The Nets won 133-118. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has committed $1.5 million to help support the income of WNBA players who have chosen to opt out of their 2020 season, according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press.

"Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions," Irving said in a statement.

The donation will be part of the KAI Empowerment Initiative created by Irving that will also provide WNBA players with a "comprehensive financial literacy program."

The WNBA began its 2020 season last Saturday and will play the entire campaign at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, but several notable players won't take part.

Liz Cambage, Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver and Tina Charles are among those who opted out for health reasons, while Natasha Cloud announced she will opt out to help protests against racial injustice, as she explained in a statement:

"There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead continue the fight for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can't matter."

Renee Montgomery is another player who won't play in favor of helping provide social justice.

Cloud and Jewell Loyd reportedly connected Irving with other players who had tough decisions about opting out, especially regarding a lost salary.

Two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne was notably denied an exemption despite being high-risk for COVID-19 because of Lyme disease, forcing her to choose to "either risk my life...or forfeit my paycheck," as she wrote for the Players' Tribune.

Irving was a driving force behind the push for NBA players to opt out of the league's restart in Orlando, leading a call of about 80 players telling them not to play, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.

"I don't support going into Orlando," he reportedly said on the June call. "I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls--t."