NBA star Kyrie Irving believes that the WNBA players who’ve decided not to play this season shouldn’t have to deal with financial concerns.
The Brooklyn Nets guard created a $1.5 million fund to help make up for lost earnings while players sit out for either COVID-19 concerns, to focus on fighting for social justice or for personal reasons. The WNBA’s 2020 season started Saturday, July 25, at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which is the sole place they’ll play in a secured bubble location.
The money is coming through Irving’s newly launched KAI Empowerment Initiative, which will also provide financial literacy tips from investment banking company USB.
Some of the WNBA players who’ve chosen to sit out to focus on social justice include Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream, as well as Natasha Cloud from the Washington Mystics.
Other WNBA players like Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun and LaToya Sanders of the Mystics opted to sit out for health reasons.
Irving said that he spoke with several WNBA players with the help of the Mystics’ Natasha Cloud and Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd, who are also sitting out this season. During those conversations, the players talked about the financial repercussions they’ll face for not playing.
“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,” said Irving in a statement.
To qualify for the funds, players have to explain why they’ve chosen to sit out this season, and they can’t be making money elsewhere. If they choose not to participate this season for health reasons, their decision has to be related to COVID-19 in some way.
Players can apply for the funds through the initiative’s website and must do so by August 11. Those who will receive some of the money will be told on August 24.
Although Irving’s Brooklyn Nets will be one of the 22 NBA teams to play in Orlando’s bubble location at Walt Disney World Resort, he’s not participating in the wake of his season-ending shoulder surgery in March, which he’s still recovering from.
In June, Irving and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley held a conference call with more than 80 NBA and WNBA players. The call was to discuss what they considered the potential harmful effects of playing this season while protests for racial equality are going on.