Austin Rivers responds to Kyrie Irving, wants to play and make meaningful change at the same time

·3 min read

Austin Rivers understands where Kyrie Irving is coming from in not wanting to resume the season amidst the massive Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

He just doesn’t think that’s the best way to make change.

The Houston Rockets guard, in a lengthy comment on Instagram on Saturday, laid out his case for playing the rest of the season at Disney World near Orlando, Florida.

“Us coming back would be putting money in all our (NBA players) pickets,” Rivers wrote, in part. “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy to the [Black Lives Matter] movement. Which I’m 100 percent on board with. Because change needs to happen and injustice has been going on too long.”

The NBA is set to resume the regular season on July 30 in Florida after a more than three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-two of the league’s 30 teams are set to participate.

Kyrie Irving leads massive call with players

More than 80 NBA and WNBA players participated in a Zoom conference call on Friday night to discuss the pros and cons of returning to play in Orlando, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. The call, which lasted nearly two hours, focused largely on how players can help combat “systemic racism, investing in black communities and sticking together through this process,” among other concerns.

Irving, though he said he will stand with the group, was strongly against resuming play. Instead, he wants to focus on racial oppression and systemic racism following George Floyd’s death in police custody last month — which has sparked widespread protests across the country ever since.

Others are with Irving, including Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell, according to Haynes. Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said he’s talked with several players who are “super interested in sitting out” for various reasons, too.

There are plenty who oppose Irving, however, including LeBron James.

James, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, “believes playing in Orlando won’t deter his ability to continue inspiring change. He wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time.”

That seems to be the same message Rivers is sending, too.

“I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement. It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it,” Rivers wrote. “But in the right way and not at the cost of the whole NBA and players careers.

“We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived. I think we have too! But canceling or boycotting return doesn’t do that in my opinion. Guys want to play and provide and help change!”

Though he respects Kyrie Irving's message, Austin Rivers wants to play in Orlando next month.
Though he respects Kyrie Irving's message, Austin Rivers wants to play in Orlando next month. (AP/Michael Dwyer)

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