With Kyrie Irving scheduled to lead a conference call with a large number of NBA players to apparently suggest they not return to play in a tense racial climate, a faction of high-profile players are in disagreement with Irving’s assertions, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Several high-profile players have been communicating with others en masse about the financial and practical implications if they don’t play, sources said. If there are no more games, the owners can and will likely activate the force majeure clause and re-open the collective bargaining agreement, and the players would have little leverage with the owners because of how the economy has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every business deal the league has will be up for renegotiation, which could be a nightmare for players because of the way revenue has risen over the last several years. The salary cap is already expected to take a dip this offseason due to the postponed season.
Irving reportedly believes a predominantly black league going back to play in quarantine for three months and entertaining the nation presents bad optics, particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s homicide in Minnesota and the subsequent protests that have taken place around the country. Irving had shoulder surgery March 3 that was expected to end his season.
League sources told Yahoo Sports that several high-profile players are planning on using the league’s resumption as a platform to be creative in promoting and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, with the eyes of the nation focused on the NBA for an extended period of time.
“There’s no bigger platform than playing and being able to get your message out there,” a high-ranking black executive told Yahoo Sports, but he was not aware of the players’ specific plans to spread their message.
“It’s understandable to have concerns, especially the guys who are parents and may have their kids during the summers because of custody arrangements. I can see players being against some of the restrictions of the bubble.”
Irving was elected as one of six vice presidents of the players union during the All-Star break. Chris Paul is the president and Andre Iguodala is the first vice president. Paul was among many superstars who were on a group call last month, including LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Yahoo Sports reported last month.
The consensus among those stars was that a united front needed to be established to support commissioner Adam Silver and the collaborative plan to return to play. Irving was not on the call, sources said.
A 22-team format was approved on June 4, and from there many issues have sprouted, ranging from the restrictive nature of the Disney World campus, to players being quarantined for weeks, to keeping older coaches and league personnel away due to the increased risks of COVID-19.
Irving’s stance and apparent influence is the latest in potential hiccups. Some players feel the league should grant them more freedom within the Disney campus, while others feel the risk of coming back to play is too great.
Quietly, the coronavirus numbers are rising in Florida as many states have eased their stay-at-home orders and allowed citizens to resume some form of normal living. There’s nearly seven weeks between now and when the league plans to resume play on July 30, and it likely won’t be a smooth ride on the way there.
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