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ESPN: For Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, return of Kyrie Irving bigger than basketball

Chicago Sky v New York Liberty Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Clara Wu Tsai said she’s looking forward to Kyrie Irving’s return not just because of his “artistry” on the court but also because she’ll get to talk with him about their mutual interest in social justice and the WNBA.

“I’m glad that we were able to reach a decision together,” Wu Tsai told ESPN regarding Irving. “I’m excited to see him bring his artistry back to the court.

“It’s wonderful that there is a convergence between my own personal ambition to work toward equity, racial and social justice and the collective desire of minority communities and some NBA athletes to achieve the same outcome,” Wu Tsai added. “As stewards of NBA and WNBA teams, our megaphone to call attention to issues is powerful, and it is our responsibility to highlight injustices and to help create momentum for change.”

Youngmisuk interviewed both Wu Tsai and her husband on more than one occasion both before and after their decision on Irving, focusing mostly on the impact of his and their commitments to social issues. Tsai took some criticism after reversing his course on Irving as a part-timer and saying “My only religion is to win games and win the championship.”

The Tsais were careful not to criticize Irving for not getting vaccinated, offering their “respect” for his decision. In November Wu Tsai spoke about she hoped Irving would return, how much she appreciated Irving’s commitment to social justice.

“Kyrie has done great philanthropic work both locally and globally and he cares so much about humanity. He and I have had several conversations over the years about issues that we care about. namely social justice and empowering women and women of the NBA,” Wu Tsai told Grady.

“These are things he really cares about and we’ve really connected over that. I have to say that I really miss seeing Kyrie on the court and looking forward to having him rejoin us.”

In the ESPN interviews, the Tsais spoke about their commitment, as persons of color, to a wide variety of social justice issues, in particular their five-year, $50 million commitment to the Social Justice Fund for Brooklyn. (That’s in addition to a $10 million commitment each of the NBA’s 30 owners made following protests about the George Floyd murder.)

Both Adam Silver and Meek Mill offered praise for the couple ... and particularly Wu Tsai who’s a founding partner and major financier of the Mill-inspired REFORM Alliance.

“Joe and Clara have taken a leadership role in advocating for social justice,” Silver told ESPN. “Through their family foundation, the REFORM Alliance and other efforts, they have dedicated themselves to combating discrimination of any kind. The work they are doing locally through their Social Justice Fund will go a long way in driving greater economic empowerment for communities of color in Brooklyn.”

“Clara is one of the smartest and most strategic executives that I’ve been around,” Mill told ESPN. “When it comes to fighting for criminal justice reform, she isn’t afraid to ask tough questions — to solve the even tougher problems. Her leadership inspires me.”

Tsai also spoke on the record about an incident in April 2020 when while jogging near his San Diego home, he felt threatened as an Asian man. Tsai told Youngmisuk that he had “felt physically threatened” in April 2020 when he thought he might have been stalked by the occupants of a pick-up truck while jogging in San Diego.