Kyrie Irving starts $1.5 million fund for WNBA players opting out of season


Kyrie Irving is stepping up for WNBA players who chose to opt out of the league's shortened, "bubbled" 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday morning, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Irving "has started a $1.5 million fund for WNBA players who choose to sit out the 2020 WNBA season due to personal, professional, health, and/or safety-related reasons."

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The Associated Press reported that players will be allowed to apply for support through the KAI Empowerment Initiative website through Aug. 11 and be notified of their status by Aug. 24.

“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 obtained by the AP.

In the run-up to the NBA's restart, Irving was a leader in discussions around the ethics of sports returning during a time of great social unrest and health risk, both physical and mental. Since George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, protests have exploded around the country and world. The WNBA postponed its season, which typically kicks off in May, months ago due to the pandemic.

The W returned on Saturday for a season housed in a "Wubbe" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. to carry out a campaign "dedicated to social justice." Players suited up with Breonna Taylor's name on the back of their jerseys, "Black Lives Matter" emblazoned on the court and public demonstrations a theme (all three will continue throughout the season).


But some of the league's top stars have already opted out of the campaign. As of July 18, NBC Sports Washington reported that at least 14 players have opted out for reasons ranging from health, to advocacy, to personal. The W made headlines last week when it denied a medical waiver submitted by reigning MVP Elena Delle-Donne of the Washington Mystics, who suffers from chronic Lyme disease, meaning Delle-Donne would have to forego her salary for skipping the season.

Hopefully, Irving's initiative is a way for players in similar predicaments to get by.