On Monday, Irving, along with Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, issued a mission statement representing the coalition that appears to signal a formalization of the group while demanding social change.
The statement given to ESPN did not provide clarity on the group’s plan for the resumption of the NBA season slated for late July in Florida.
During the call, Irving voiced concerns about the optics of black NBA players convening in a quarantine bubble to provide entertainment in the aftermath of the racial reckoning over George Floyd’s homicide in Minneapolis.
As a player representative for the Brooklyn Nets and a vice president in the union, Irving was also a part of a vote that approved the outline of the NBA’s plan to return.
Players on Friday’s call expressed concern that not all player voices were represented in that decision.
‘WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH’
Here is Monday’s statement that calls for “UNITY and CHANGE” while vowing to fight a “system” of “Use and Abuse:”
“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 statement reads.
“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 HAVE HAD ENOUGH!
“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!”
Players at odds with Irving
While approximately 80 players participated in Friday’s call, others have questioned Irving’s strategy of discouraging the return of the NBA while asking why players can’t play and advocate for social justice at the same time.
“Us coming back would be putting money in all our pockets,” Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers wrote on Instagram Saturday. “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy to the movement.”
Irving wasn’t included in call of NBA stars
Meanwhile a group of high-profile players has reportedly rebuffed Irving’s suggestion behind closed doors, citing financial concerns and the ability to use the platform of the season to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement.
A group of players including LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook agreed on a call last month to form a united front to return to play. Irving was not on that call, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill.
COVID-19 concerns in play
In addition to its desire to advance social justice issues, the coalition is concerned about safety issues with COVID-19 cases surging in Florida after the state’s loosening of social distance protocols, according to ESPN.
COVID-19 continues to expand in Florida after reopening plans were initiated six weeks ago alongside increased testing. The state reported record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases for three consecutive days last week.
Meanwhile, the United States claims more than 2.1 million of the world’s nearly 8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with more than 115,000 of the planet’s confirmed 434,000 deaths attributed to the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.
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