Kyrie Irving Urges Players to Boycott NBA Resumption in Orlando to Take Stand Against 'Systematic Racism'

Kyrie Irving has reportedly urged players to boycott the NBA's restart plans suggesting it was time for them to take a stand in the wake of the ongoing racial tension.

Last week, the NBA announced the regular season will resume on July 31 with 22 teams competing at three separate venues at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The NBA season has been suspended since March 11, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.

According to ESPN, The Athletic and Yahoo Sports, Irving held a call with approximately 80 players including several high-profile stars, urging his colleagues to sit out the resumption and send a powerful message in the current climate.

NBPA president Chris Paul, Irving's Brooklyn Nets teammate Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Lakers duo Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell were all on the call.

"I don't support going into Orlando," Irving told the players, as per The Athletic.

"I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls**t. ... Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up."

A host of NBA players and teams have spoken out to demand radical social changes and an end to police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death. An African American man, Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25 after a white officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Footage of the incident went viral on social media and sparked protests across the world.

LeBron James, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and his San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons counterparts Gregg Popovich and Dwane Casey have all joined the chorus of voices demanding justice for Floyd.

Boston Celtics duo Enes Kanter and Jaylen Brown joined the demonstrations, as did Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook and San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan.

Up until Friday, however, the prospect of players opposing the restart plans over the social unrest that has spread across the U.S. in the last two weeks remained almost unthinkable. The dynamic appears to have significantly shifted after the 90-minute call Irving held with his colleagues and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported several players had suggested they'd be willing to sit out the season.

At the same time, the report acknowledged the NBA remained confident it retained enough support from the players to go through with its restart plans.

In his role as one of the six vice-presidents of the NBA Players Association Irving was among the players union's representatives who last week held a conference call and vote on the NBA plans to resume the regular season. The team representatives, executive committee members and NBPA representatives, including Irving, voted unanimously in favor of approving the league's proposal.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Irving has also questioned whether it's safe for the league to resume given the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

While the 28-year-old is unlikely to travel to Orlando as he has been ruled for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury he suffered in March, a number of his colleagues have expressed similar concerns, indicating the league had not yet detailed how it plans to ensure players are safely isolated during their stay in Orlando.

The NBA's decision to resume the season in a single hub stems from the need to minimize air travel and ensuring players and coaches can remain as isolated as possible and be routinely tested for COVID-19.

"As far as actually playing and going back down to Orlando, I'm still up in the air a little bit because I really don't, we don't have all the details, we don't know a lot of information," Portland Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony told Ernie Johnson in an NBA Together Twitter Live session earlier this week.

"So until we have that it's kind of hard to just commit to it 100 percent."

As of Saturday morning, almost 2.05 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally of any country in the world.

Almost 114,700 deaths have been recorded in the U.S. and almost 547,400 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

Almost 425,900 people have died globally since the outbreak of coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan city, in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There have been over 7.6 million confirmed cases globally.

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets in action against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on January 31 in New York City. Irving has called for NBA players to sit out the restart of the season in Orlando in July. Mike Stobe/Getty