Austin Rivers Takes Stance Opposing Kyrie Irving, Other Players Pushing Cancellation Of NBA Season

Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers drives against OKC's Steven Adams in a game during the 2019-20 NBA season.
Bob Levey / Getty Images

Although the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have agreed to pursue resuming the 2019-20 basketball season — with a targeted restart date of July 30 — a large faction of players, led by Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, have reportedly spoken out against returning to the court. While Irving is said to be motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against racial injustice, some disagree with his proposed course of action — notably, Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers.

On Saturday, theScore posted a picture of Irving on its Instagram account, along with a quote that he was reported to have made during a recent conference call to discuss the prospect of returning to play in a bubble environment in Orlando, Florida amid the civil unrest and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving is reported to have said by The Athletic‘s Shams Charania.

“I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullsh*t.”

Rivers then responded to theScore‘s post with a lengthy commentary on why Irving — and others who have taken the position that they shouldn’t be playing — might be engaged in the wrong approach as relates to protesting and/or using their platform to further the cause.

The 27-year-old — whose father, Doc Rivers, coaches the Los Angeles Clippers — opened his remarks by alluding to the fact that he can’t identify a correlation between furthering the movement and not finishing out the season. He then argued that returning to play “would be putting money in all our (NBA players) pockets,” and further stated that some of those funds could be earmarked for helping people and the BLM movement at large.

Rivers continued, writing that not all players are as financially secure as Irving and other elite-level players. In recent days, the league and the Players Association have been ironing a plan that would allow players to excuse themselves from participating in the Orlando restart. However, those who do so without being deemed a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 would forego their salaries.

If the season is canceled outright for any reason, this would apply to all of the league’s players.

Rivers further wrote about the future ramifications of refusing to play, i.e. the possible cancellation of the 2020-21 season due to collective bargaining issues in the event that players refuse to finish the current campaign. However, he also made clear the fact that he supports Irving’s passion for the BLM movement in spite of this disagreement, calling it “admirable and inspiring.”

“I’m with it….but in the right way and not at the cost of the whole NBA and players careers. We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived. I think we have too! But canceling or boycotting return doesn’t do that in my opinion. Guys want to play and provide and help change!!!!”