A Zoom conference call led by Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving on Friday night that included 80-plus NBA players — and WNBA players — established a unifying front in which opinions on the pros and cons of returning to play were discussed, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The call, which lasted an hour and forty minutes, focused on the role players could play in combating systemic racism, investing in black communities and sticking together through this process, sources said.
Irving made it known he was strongly against going to Orlando, Florida, to resume the season, opting instead to work on the frontlines in his community to focus on racial oppression and systemic racism in the aftermath of George Floyd’s homicide, sources said.
However, later in the call, Irving said he would stand with the group and travel to Disney World in Orlando if the players agreed that was the right call, sources said.
"If it's worth the risk, then let's go and do it," Irving said on the call, sources said. "But if you're not with it, it's OK, too. We've got options for both ways. Let's just come to a middle ground as a family."
Irving, along Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell, expressed their desire not to play at this juncture, sources said. Portland Trail Blazers star C.J. McCollum shared that he voted “no” on resuming the season in a group chat, but he stressed the importance of finishing the season out of fear the next CBA negotiations wouldn't be so kind to the players, sources said.
Howard said the time is now to take a stand and to use their collective power to implement change in the justice system and how police treat people of color instead of playing, sources said.
Mitchell, who is up for an extension this offseason, explained he's concerned with returning to play and injuring himself and thus jeopardizing his opportunity for a max deal, sources said.
Before the call, sources said, players were disappointed that they all were not given a vote on whether to return to play.
Mitchell explained that the young players feel as if they're not being listened to, sources said. Mo Bamba acknowledged some young players are intimidated to voice an opinion that's opposite of the superstars’, sources said. Anthony apologized and assured them that moving forward the platform would be for all to participate in, and throughout the call he asked for young players to let their voices be heard, sources said.
The players were enthusiastic about the number of participants on the call and vowed to gather together — even in Orlando — to continue the dialogue on ways to end racial injustice, sources said.
It was a much-needed galvanizing call, sources said.
Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mason Plumlee and Andre Iguodala were among those on the call, sources said. WNBA players Tiffany Hayes, Kristi Toliver, Renee Montgomery and Natasha Cloud were on the call as well, sources said.
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