The number of people who have been silent in the weeks leading up to now are only proving Kyrie Irving right.
It seems like people want change and impact until it’s really time to change and impact. Kyrie Irving, forever undeterred by the opinions of the masses, finds himself back in the center of attention after emerging as the spearpoint of a group of players concerned about playing in Orlando during the middle of a pandemic and the most profound social unrest of many of our lifetimes.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wasted no time writing a scathing report labeling Kyrie Irving as a “disruptor” who’s stance “has pitted him against the league’s establishment, including his former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James, once again.” For those who have the ability to look past the messenger and see the message for what it’s worth, Irving’s intent actually appears to attempt to prevent basketball from taking our attention off of the most important thing going on in the world right now.
Kyrie Irving told NBA players on call Friday, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium: "I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy."
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
If those words are disagreeable to you, save yourself time, and stop reading this article right now.
The world has never been more focused on racial injustice than it is at this moment. Pushes for widespread law enforcement reform extend all over the globe, in large part because people have nothing to do but focus on the matter at hand with no sports and a limited ability to work. The lack of distractions has allowed the masses to flood the streets and demand change that is 400+ years overdue.
True leadership comes at the price of standing out and being disliked. It is a sacrifice. Despite what the 5th-grade curriculum teaches, Dr. Martin Luther King died with a 75% disapproval rate among Americans because he dared to suggest equality for Black people in the Jim Crow United States. Kyrie Irving is no professional activist, but the voice of a superstar was needed to represent the best interests of role players concerned about the safety of the “bubble” and the many people who have been killed by police officers who still wear badges today.
Black lives are more important than the CBA agreement. They are more important than LeBron’s legacy chase. They are more important than the needs of people wishing for an outlet to become disassociated with the images of continued police brutality on television during police brutality protests. People just may not be able to comprehend that Kyrie Irving understands a concept that some seem to be unable to grasp. The Earth isn’t flat, but it is on fire, and we don’t need sports to subdue the flames this go around. Our attention is right where it needs to be.
There is also the issue of the safety of Disney World’s bubble in a state that just reported it’s highest amount of coronavirus cases in a single day. More than 100,000 Americans have lost their lives due to a virus that many are pretending is over. The league is set to tip-off at the end of the month while still lacking important details in regards to how they will keep players safe. It was irresponsible for the NBA and NBPA to even vote on a comeback without these measures nailed down. Of course, the league’s superstars want a chance to compete for an ever-elusive championship. The problem is that they make up a small percentage of the body of the league. As the NBPA’s sitting vice president is is Irving’s obligation to give a voice to the rank-and-file, at least some of which clearly echoes the Brooklyn point guard’s sentiments.
Amid his reservations on restarting season, Kyrie Irving has lent a strong voice to ongoing call w/ NBA players tonight. One player in text: "He's trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity…It's a good call."
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 13, 2020
NBA players don’t need to be playing basketball to have a platform. America’s Blackest league has been at the forefront in the streets, which have served as the epicenter for applying pressure to reform. Scores of current and former players have marched alongside protestors for weeks, actively engaging in the communities they come from and giving people a direct morale boost with their physical presence while using their social media platforms and camera time to advocate for change. Sports have not stopped a single Black body from hitting the ground nor has it forced killer officers to be convicted for the crimes they commit.
The onus is not on professional athletes to draw attention to and magnify social injustice around the globe. Like any revolution in world history, that power rests solely in coalition amongst the people. If you find yourself waking up calling Kyrie Irving entitled or problematic, it is time to take a hard look in the mirror and identify your privilege and willful ignorance.