The NBA season will return at the end of July following approval by the league board of governors. However, multiple stars expressed opposition to this plan. Dwight Howard and Kyrie Irving have both stated that they don't want the season to return right now due to the ongoing protests about systemic racism.
Irving reportedly led a conference call with 80 fellow players on Friday to discuss the pending return. He will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in February but made his opposition clear to stars such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell. "I don't support going into Orlando. I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls—. Something smells a little fishy," Irving reportedly said during the call.
Howard, who could win an NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, voiced his support for Irving. The Lakers held the top spot in the Western Conference before a March 11 suspension of play, and many analysts expected them to win the title. However, Howard would prefer to give up this opportunity to continue fighting for the end of racial inequality.
"I agree with Kyrie. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn't needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us players, but we have resources at hand [the] majority of our community don't have," Howard said in a statement to CNN. "I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that's just to [sic] beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of."
Protests have taken place around the world following the murder of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody. Athletes, citizens and organizations have all spoken out about systemic racism and instances of police brutality. Several athletes have taken part in these protests, including several members of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.
Without the majority of sports taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests are at the forefront of discussions around the world. Nothing is distracting from these topics, which Howard appreciates. He and Irving have both expressed concern that they would no longer be necessary if the NBA season returns. They can't guarantee that this will happen, but they do not want to take the chance.