Kyrie Irving pledges $1.5M to support WNBA players opting out of 2020 season

Kyrie Irving has committed $1.5 million to help pay WNBA players who have opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic or social justice movements.

The latest WNBA campaign belatedly got under way behind closed doors on Saturday, but some stars have decided to sit out this year.

The season was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, with health and safety concerns persisting, while the Black Lives Matter movement has come to the fore in the intervening period following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Those players who are continuing protested during the national anthem as the games restarted, and the name of Breonna Taylor – a black woman shot by police officers – was displayed on jerseys.

But Brooklyn Nets point guard Irving does not want those on a comparatively modest wage to suffer if they decide they do not want to play.

Teaming up with Natasha Cloud – who has opted out – and Jewell Loyd, the former NBA champion launched the KAI Empowerment Initiative on Monday.

Affected WNBA players can apply online for support.

Irving said in a statement: “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.

“In these conversations, I have learned about the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and how it will impact their lives, family, and overall wellbeing.

“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.”

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