Brooklyn Nets Star Kyrie Irving said over a month ago that he would be opting out of the NBA bubble. The reason — to focus his energy on social justice issues, among other inequality issues within the United States. To be real, he is also injured so he wasn’t going to play anyway. Still, to his credit, he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
The KAI Empowerment Initiative
On July 27th Irving announced the KAI Empowerment Initiative. It will serve as a $1.5 million dollar fund to help pay the salaries of WNBA players who are sitting out of the 2020 season. The WNBA is permitting players who were deemed high-risk by a panel of doctors to sit out the season and still receive their full salary. However, any other player who chooses not to play was required to forfeit their pay for the year.
Elena Delle Donne is one example of many players in the WNBA who did not qualify to be fully paid for sitting out. Fortunately for her, her team, the Washington Mystics, said they would take care of her regardless. Irving’s fund is here for those who are less fortunate. To qualify, a player must explain their reason for opting out. They cannot be receiving financial help from any other source. Medical opt-outs must be due to COVID-19.
“Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,” Irving said in a statement.
The WNBA season got underway last weekend. All players wore Breonna Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys for opening weekend. The league has pledged to dedicate the season to social justice.