Are we really surprised? He said he'll stay in Boston and then did a 180 half a year later. Now Kyrie did the same thing as the VP of the NBPA. Eleven days ago, Irving was part of the union's ratification vote on June 5 that approved the league's plan for a 22-team restart in Orlando. On Friday, he organized a conference call to convince other players to sit out the season.
“WHO?? I’m so glad I’m retired, I’m so glad I’m out of the league. That’s all I got to say. Cause I’m telling you, that’s the blind leading the blind.”
Kendrick Perkins, The Jump
That's how Kendrick Perkins commented when Irving got elected to his position in the NBPA. Kyrie contradicted himself so many times and then tried to talk himself out of it with some meta BS, that his latest salto mortale shouldn't surprise anyone. As much as we should expect it by now, it still got a lot of people furious.
Michael Wilbon, Charles Barkley, Steven A Smith, and Jay Williams all agreed in arguing with Kyrie's approach - there's no benefit in sitting out the season. "Out of sight, out of mind." Resuming the season would provide two essential things - a platform to speak about the issues at hand, and bring a lot more money into the hands of young African-American men. There is a legitimate concern that sitting out would cause the owners to tear up the CBA and negotiate a new one, which would be much worse for the players. If Kyrie is willing to serious about his desire to fight for social justice, Perk has a suggestion. I read another statement that Kyrie made, saying he’s “willing to give it up all.” Don’t be willing. This ain’t the time to be willing. DO IT!! Maya Moore, she wasn’t willing, she did it. She walked away from the game of basketball and took it on full time. If you’re gonna make a stance, do it or don’t talk about it.
The only value in sitting out would be in the shock value of such action. In a parallel universe in which George Floyd and others die, and people don't react to it as they did, you refuse to play until the issues get the attention they deserve. That's already happening. Awareness is at an all-time high, and sitting out NBA games wouldn't contribute to it significantly. The loss of a platform and economic empowerment would be much greater than the marginal shock value sitting out would do.
But with Kyrie, it often isn't only about what he suggests, but how he suggests it. More than a week ago, he voted for the season to resume - now he is trying to convince people not to play. In addition to that, Irving is recovering from shoulder surgery, he won't play in Orlando either way and will earn over $230 million by the end of his current contract. (Uncle Drew profits not included) Others have a lot more to lose competitively and financially.
“It’s easy for a guy like Kyrie [Irving] to say that he’ll give everything back [for social reform], but would he really give everything back? It’s easy for Dwight Howard to say that we don’t need to play when he’s in Atlanta in his $20 million mansion. But there are other guys on the rosters who need this money to provide for whoever they’re taking care of and things like that. It’s easy for the superstars in the league to say this and how they feel about this and that. But it means a lot more when it comes from the role players and the guys that [aren ’t stars].”
Ed Davis, Hoops Hype
While Woj is reporting there are a lot of guys reluctant to commit to showing up in Orlando, most of them give other reasons. Mostly concerns over safety connected to COVID-19 and the bubble environment, being separated from friends and family for almost two months. We shouldn't automatically assume everyone who was on the Friday call and is thinking about not showing up agrees with Kyrie.
Who knows, maybe Kyrie will be consistent for a change and take up Perk on his challenge. I wouldn't bet on it.