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Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley lead coalition of players questioning restart plan

Chris Haynes discusses the different options that NBA players may pursue in fighting social injustice, and how it could impact the NBA's restart.

Even long-time veterans of the social justice movement — including Black Lives Matter — say it feels different this time. There is a broad-based groundswell of momentum that could lead to important changes in police departments and how they interact with communities of color. There is momentum toward removing some of the systemic racism that has been embedded in our nation for countless generations.

Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley, and a coalition of NBA players, other athletes, and entertainers, want to discuss where the NBA — specifically an NBA return — fits into those changes.

Irving and Bradley led a call with at least 80 players on it Friday night with a lot of questions about the NBA’s restart, on Monday they released a statement to ESPN. From the story by Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews.

Irving, Bradley and the coalition of players want to pursue some concerns further with the league, sources said, including: the investment of resources and ideas of all league constituencies -- from the commissioner’s office, ownership level, management and the players’ association -- in social justice reform.

Among concerns surrounding the league’s return to play after a three-month shutdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, sources said the coalition is citing: a surge in positive coronavirus cases in Florida, conditions surrounding the restrictive environment in the bubble, insurance and liabilities for players based on possible illnesses, and injuries in a truncated finish to the season.

The ESPN story contains the full statement from the coalition, which is worth reading in its entirety. Here is just a sampling:

“This is not about individual players, athletes or entertainers. This is about our group of strong men and women uniting for change. We have our respective fields, however, we will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse.

“We are all fathers, daughters, leaders and so much more. So what is our BIG picture? We are in this for UNITY and CHANGE!”

Players absoloutly should be asking a lot of questions right now.

There is an ongoing dialogue among players about whether the restart is a distraction to the BLM movement or provides players a bigger platform to make their point, and not everyone agrees. Irving made his feelings known (even if some question his motives), and players such as Dwight Howard, CJ McCollum, and others have said they are not sure players should go to Orlando for the restart. On the other hand, LeBron James has supported going, and a lot of players such as Garrett Temple, Austin Rivers, and others have supported that same idea.

There is no one right answer for all players; it’s a personal decision that weighs social justice, health and safety concerns, and the financial impacts short and long term of not playing. Players can choose not to play and will not be punished, but they also will not be paid.

There is going to be a lot of talk among players in the coming days and weeks, but the time is coming when each man and woman will have to decide for themselves what they want to do. What’s right for one person may not be right for another. Ultimately, that’s how democracy and freedom of choice work, it is by its nature messy and at times uncomfortable. That’s how we know its working.