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Woj: Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley voicing opinions of those ‘reluctant to speak’

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews report Monday evening that the Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Lakers’ Avery Bradley have become the leaders of a coalition of players who believe they need to give voice to “fellow players the group believes to be justifiably reluctant to speak for themselves.”

Irving and Bradley, the ESPN reporters write, are “two of a number of veteran players who’ve taken expanded roles in organizing player conference calls in the past week, believe they’re providing a voice for those players who fear retribution if they openly voice their concerns, sources tell ESPN.”

The coalition, they add, wants “a further examination of the NBA’s plan to restart the season in Orlando.”

Moreover, the group supplied Woj and Andrews, who covers the Nets for ESPN, with a statement whose authorship is not specified, but whose content, language and cadence is similar to what Irving has said and written in the past...

“We are a group of men and women from different teams and industries that are normally painted as opponents, but have put our egos and differences aside to make sure we stand united and demand honesty during this uncertain time,” the coalition said.

“Native indigenous African Caribbean men and women entertaining the world, we will continue to use our voices and platforms for positive change and truth.

“We are truly at an inflection point in history where as a collective community, we can band together — UNIFY — and move as one. We need all our people with us and we will stand together in solidarity.

“As an oppressed community we are going on 500-plus years of being systemically targeted, used for our IP [intellectual property]/Talent, and also still being killed by the very people that are supposed to ‘protect and serve’ us.


“We are combating the issues that matter most: We will not accept the racial injustices that continue to be ignored in our communities. We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being. And we will not ignore the financial motivations/expectations that have prevented us historically from making sound decisions.

“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!”

The statement touches on a number of issues Irving and Bradley reportedly raised in a two-hour conference call Friday night and in another call earlier last week, including the need for the players —and the larger NBA community— to engage in social justice; the need for more and detailed information on risks and conditions associated with the “bubble” at Walt Disney World; and disparities in the amount of influence between the stars and rank-and-file in the union. Irving is a players union vice-president and has been the “driving force” in setting up conference calls.

Moreover, it shows the coalition wants to expand its membership beyond the NBA. As Woj and Andrews write ...

The player calls have included members of the WNBA and entertainment industry, and there has been discussion within the group about representing more than just voices in the sport and public eye — but those in oppressed black communities throughout the country.

What’s next? According to the ESPN reporters,

The NBA and the NBPA (the players union) have been in contact with the players to get a better understanding of how they can work together to address issues and try to find common ground on getting as many players as possible to rejoin their teams this month, sources said.

Overnight, ESPN interviewed Adam Silver who admitted the “bubble” isn’t for everyone, but that he believes social justice concerns are best addressed by a return to play.

“I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them ... it may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere...

“And in terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to the issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando if we’re able to pull this off.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Jackson, who was a childhood friend of Geroge Floyd, said he has been in touch with Irving who he said has become emotional in their discussions.