Kyrie Irving Discusses Pushing for NBA Bubble Strike Amid Racial Injustice

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2020

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

Kyrie Irving stirred plenty of debate around the NBA when he pushed for players to avoid the league's restart in Orlando, Florida, but he stands by his words.

"I think I heard something, it was Maya Angelou, she said, one person standing on the word of God is the majority. And I'm always going to speak on what's right," Irving said on The ETCs podcast, hosted by teammate Kevin Durant.

The Brooklyn Nets guard led a call of more than 80 players in June ahead of the restart, pushing players to focus on the fight against social injustice following the death of George Floyd. 

"I don't support going into Orlando," he told the players, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. "I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls--t."

Irving faced a lot of criticism, specifically mentioning a critique from former teammate Kendrick Perkins:

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He spoke about the effect of these words on the podcast:

"We have people like that that I don't have a problem with at all, that's his opinion, nor do I feel disrespected by anything like that. But what I would say to that is, I've come to a place in my life where I serve myself and I serve others, but also I take the criticism serious from people I respect, and people that are on the alignment and wavelength and frequency as I am. I can't take in everybody's burdens and problems and thoughts about me and what I should be doing, what I should not be doing, because I have taken that into consideration, and it also became a very dark place that I was in."

While several players did opt out of the bubble, the NBA went forward with the seeding games and playoffs. The postseason later came to a temporary halt after Jacob Blake was shot by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, leading to a league-wide protest.

Co-host Eddie Gonzalez asked Irving if he felt vindicated for his words based on what's going on in the world, although the 28-year-old countered that some things weren't up for debate:

"I don't need to feel vindicated for saying what's right, what's already been known. Historically, if we break down factual information, we're not talking about opinionated facts, we're talking about factual information of things that have happened in our world, in society, to race, to religion, to our belief system, to media, to propagandizing racial tension and social injustice. And there's so many issues that you want to tackle, that I want to tackle, and honestly, it's so hard to do it without having a destination." 

Irving was not going to play in the restart anyway as he was recovering from a shoulder injury. The team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after being swept by the Toronto Raptors.