Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers took to Instagram on Saturday to offer an opposing viewpoint to Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving‘s belief that NBA players should sit out the remainder of the season to focus on social issues.
In the post that was later tweeted by ESPN, Rivers wrote that he is “trying to find the correlation” between canceling the rest of the 2019-20 NBA season and fighting for racial equality:
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that Irving spoke on a call that included nearly 100 players. During the call, Irving made an “impassioned plea” for players to refuse to finish the season despite the NBPA’s voting in favor of the NBA’s return-to-play plan last week.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Irving said: “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls–t. Something smells a little fishy.”
Charania noted Kyrie also said: “I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform].”
Rivers is of the belief that a return to action for NBA players would do more good for the fight for racial equality that sitting out would: “Us coming back would be putting money in all our [NBA players] pockets. With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement. Which I’m 100% on board with.”
The 27-year-old also pointed out that the NBA largely has a black audience and that keeping some kids inside and watching basketball could be beneficial to them “[due] to the unfair and unequal environments a lot of African-American kids are placed in.”
Another point Rivers made that may reverberate with many of the non-superstar players is the fact that they need to be compensated. Rivers wrote: “Not to mention there are plenty of NBA players I know who need them paychecks…99% of the NBA hasn’t made the money a guy like Kyrie has.”
To Rivers’ point, Irving signed a four-year, $136.5 million contract with the Nets during the offseason. Per Spotrac, Irving’s estimated cash earnings throughout his NBA career are near $127 million.
In an interview with Mark Medina of USA Today on Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers player rep Danny Green said he believes “most guys” want the season to resume so they don’t miss out on “maximizing their dollar.”
Players have already taken a salary hit since part of the season was lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, and if they opt against playing, Wojnarowski reported that they would lose an additional 25 percent of their salaries, with owners exercising the force majeure provision. In all, players could lose $1.2 billion in salary.
Wojnarowski also reported that “several” players who participated in Friday’s call suggested they would be willing to sit out the season as an act of protest following the killing of 46-year-old black man George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.