Within the past 24 hours, our favorite NBA reporters have revealed that Kyrie Irving is leading a charge for players to sit out the rest of the season. His concern centers on the NBA returning among one of the most inflamed periods of racial tension in recent American history.
About a week ago, when protests and plans to resume the NBA season were happening concurrently, Irving participated in a conference call with league executives and other players. According to Woj, he said nothing about systemic racism and instead focused on the operational logistics of the league’s bubble plan for resuming play. In fact, he voted for the plan.
Apparently, players have expressed concerns about their health and safety during this resumption. They are right to do so and I agree with their precautionary inquiries. Additionally, some players have questioned the optics of resuming play amidst such racial tension; another rational thought.
But something is off here. Why do I have this gut, intuitive feeling to disagree with Kyrie and his “impassioned plea for players to make a stand and sit out the season’s resumption in Orlando?”
Kyrie Irving is a pseudo-intellectual. Like a teenager who watched Ancient Aliens for the first time after faking sick to stay home from school, Irving admittedly eyeballs conspiracy theory Instagram stories for educational inspiration. In fact, Irving inherently believes these theories to be tellers of truth and takes umbrage that they are labeled with the term conspiracy at all.
He doesn’t think Christmas is a holiday. Studies have shown, however, that it is. On a podcast with JJ Redick he hinted that he might be a 9/11 truther. He believes a largely debunked theory that the CIA plotted to assassinate Bob Marley. He isn’t sold on the moon landing. And of course, Irving will not totally back down from his flat earth theory despite, you know, pictures of Earth from space that are pretty damning. Adam Kaufman from NBC Boston summed it up nicely.
Am I too harsh on Irving’s belief in conspiracy theories? Am I reading too much into them? Yes and no. The only thing more disconcerting than believing such nonsense is the quickness in which Irving is prone to do so. It displays a dearth of critical thinking skills; a trait of the utmost importance for a NBPA vice president during this time of racial tension and pandemic panic.
Consider the time he intimated that he wanted to have a long, successful career in Boston by having his number retired. Remember that he married that sentiment with his now infamous, I’ll be back “if you guys will have me” quote. It would take only a few weeks for the rumors of Irving wanting to go back on his word to surface. While there is nothing wrong with changing your mind, this instant unquestionably displayed Irving’s inability of both caution and foresight.
Now consider the unprecedented times NBA players find themselves living in. They have to make a decision to play and base this decision on their feelings about both racial tension and the Coronavirus. This is not easy, folks.
What irks me the most is that Irving – one of six elected player representatives – plays a massive role in this decision making process. To focus on his love for conspiracy theories partially misses the target. What it truly reveals is his affinity for free, independent, outside-of-the-box thinking. Sure, Irving’s doubt about dinosaurs may make him more Evangelical than Enlightened but, it mostly divulges his love for doing your own research and coming to a conclusion.
Unfortunately, it appears as though not only did Irving fail to take his own advice but, he is encouraging players not to take it either. Can you be an advocate of independent thinking while simultaneously trying to persuade players to side with your opinion? Irving has to choose: he can either be the molder of minds or their mouthpiece once they are made up up, but he cannot be both. The irony is blinding.
He should be supplying players with histories of racism and sports, stories about Kareem, Bill Russell, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali. Give them the info and let them decide for themselves. Do not influence unless asked for your input. By all accounts, it appears that Irving is trying to convince players to adopt his side of the argument; a notion that does more than fail to align with Irving’s history as a free-thinker advocate. It is a notion that can only make him a hypocrite.
If the league looks at Kareem’s example of boycotting the 1968 Olympics and decides to mimic that plan, then I will support that. This is bigger than basketball. If they want to protest on-court like what happened after the Trayvon Martin murder, I will support that too. Regardless, if Kyrie wants his much preached life philosophy to retain either its dignity or legitimacy, he must be only the representative of players, not the influencer of them. When considering his routine poor judgement and lack of critical thinking skills, it is fair to question both his leadership and intention. Ask yourself, is Kyrie Irving the person you want to play a large role in making this remarkably hard decision?