Kyrie Irving Commits $1.5 Million to WNBA Players Sitting Out the Season
Kyrie Irving is standing with WNBA players through tumultuous times.
The Brooklyn Nets star is giving $1.5 million to players who are choosing to sit out this season due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns or reasons related to the movement against racial injustice and police brutality, he announced in a press release Monday.
Irving’s donation is through his newly formed KAI Empowerment Initiative, which will also offer all WNBA players access to a comprehensive financial literacy program created by investment bank UBS.
“With the help of Natasha Cloud and Jewell Loyd, I have connected with several WNBA players who have decided to play and those who have decided not to play,” Irving, 28, said in a statement. “In these conversations, I have learned about the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and how it will impact their lives, family, and overall well being.”
He continued: “This platform was created to provide support for all WNBA players in hopes to relieve some of the financial strain imposed during these challenging times. 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.”
The WNBA kicked off their 2020 season on Saturday.
During the season opener between the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty, players held a 26-second moment of silence for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police officers inside her home on March 13.
Taylor’s full name appeared on the back of both teams’ jerseys during Saturday’s game as part of a campaign that honors female victims of police violence, including Sandra Bland and Vanessa Guillen.
"We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home,” Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon said at mid-court alongside Storm star Breanna Stewart. “Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around here."
Several players including Cloud and Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery, 33, have opted not to play, instead focusing on social reform.
“I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball,” Cloud, 28, wrote on Instagram. “I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”
Irving is currently not playing with the Nets as he recovers from shoulder surgery, the Associated Press reports. The NBA Champion has been vocal in his support of nationwide protests against racism and police violence, even producing a TV special earlier this month calling for action in the death of Taylor.