Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is missing the remainder of the 2020 NBA season due to an injury. He likely will not have any financial worries due to playing on a four-year, $1136,490,600 contract, but he is assisting other professional basketball players. Irving is committing $1.5 million to WNBA players that opt out of the 2020 season for various reasons.
According to AP News, Irving will provide the money through his recently-launched KAI Empowerment Initiative. This initiative will help offset lost wages in a league where top stars earn around $200,000 annually. He will also provide players with a financial literacy program created by UBS. The initiative is not solely focused on those that opt-out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, as it also assists those focusing on social justice issues or other priorities.
"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 in a statement, per AP News. He explained that he connected with multiple WNBA players that decided to sit out of the 2020 season. They described many challenges that they will face by opting out of the games in Florida.
To be eligible for this financial assistance, the players must "provide insight into the circumstances" surrounding their decision to opt-out of the season. They must also not receive salary support from any other entity. Those that skip the season for medical reasons have to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Natasha Cloud, a player for the Washington Mystics, is opting out of the season due to social reform reasons. Atlanta Dream player Renee Montgomery is skipping games for similar reasons. Cloud is one of the players — along with Jewel Lloyd — that connected Irving with their peers before his initiative's launch.
The WNBA season is currently taking place after its restart on Saturday. All of the games are taking place in a "bubble" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, much like the NBA. Each of the 12 teams will play a 22-game regular-season schedule. The season started on July 25 and will run until Sept. 12. Fans will not attend the games due to the ongoing pandemic. The teams can also keep up to 12 players on the roster — although some teams could have fewer due to them opting out.