Kyrie Irving Establishes $1.5 Million Fund for WNBA Players Who Opt Out

Jordan Cohn
July 27, 2020 - 1:15 pm

Kyrie Irving, for a number of reasons including season-ending surgery and staunch opposition to an NBA restart amid social justice protests, will not be participating in his league restart. And though he won't be rewarded financially for his decision, he will now be helping members of another league who also opt not to partake in their season with quite a generous gift.

According to the official website of the fund, the Nets guard has committed $1.5 million for WNBA players who chose to sit out of the 2020 season. And it's not one-dimensional, either. Irving detailed all of the potential reasons that he will accept under his fund's cause.

“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 (via Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press).

Those are all reasons that Irving has seen his fellow NBA players -- many of which are teammates of his on the Brooklyn Nets -- decide to sit out of the Orlando bubble. Kevin Durant can't partake due to injury. Teammate Spencer Dinwiddie opted out after two positive coronavirus tests, while fellow teammate Wilson Chandler chose to keep his family as his top priority (via Malika Andrews of ESPN). Blazers' forward Trevor Ariza decided to opt out due to a custody battle over his son and a one-month visitation window he committed to (via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN).

And the list goes on. The WNBA has started to see a similar pattern of opt outs, including Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders of the Washington Mystics. The former opted out for social justice reasons, while the latter decided to focus on her family's well-being. A full list of WNBA opt outs is available via Slam Online.

The rules for eligibility of the KAI Empowerment Fund are as follows:

1. Must be an active WNBA player who has opted out of the 2020 WNBA season
2. Must share insight into circumstances surrounding reason to opt out
3. Cannot receive support for salary from any other entity or organization
4. Medical opt out considerations must be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic

A notable case is that of Maya Moore, who sat out of the 2019 season in order to help overturn the wrongful conviction of Jonathon Irons. Though she completed her goal in an unbelievable story, her mindset toward playing in 2020 still hasn't changed.

“My decision to take another year was bigger than this case,” Moore said in an interview with the Associated Press. “But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family.”

Two WNBA players, Glory Johnson and Kalani Brown of the Atlanta Dream, tested positive for coronavirus earlier in July after being in the bubble (via Mechelle Voepel of ESPN). These results were reported the day before the season started.

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