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Kyrie Irving and the Downside of Player Empowerment

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver long ago had an essential insight that is still mostly, and curiously, ignored by other major North American sports leagues. The way to establish labor peace and mutual collaboration in his organization, he reasoned, was to treat players like owners — to understand that everyone in the league was, in their own way, an entrepreneur. When the players thrived, the league would too. The player-empowerment movement has led to long-term labor deals and unprecedented, palpably effective activism. (Much of that activism was initially driven by less financially stable WNBA players.) It remains the NBA’s calling card: We’re the league that values our players.

But COVID has thrown a wrench into the organization’s way of doing business. When your star athletes hold power, there is always the possibility that they, being human after all, will wield that power in the stupidest possible ways — ways that shoot your league right in the foot.

Enter Kyrie Irving.

Kyrie Irving on if he expects to play in home games this season:

"Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up. As of right now, please respect my privacy." pic.twitter.com/W7fqrFkWY5

The Brooklyn Nets star guard has always been a bit of an odd duck. His eccentricity has often manifested in ways that are productive and interesting, like the time he showed up on a Zoom gathering for former Manhattan district attorney candidate Tahanie Aboushi, or when he enlisted sports activist John Carlos to question whether playing in the NBA bubble was the most effective use of their time during a summer of social protest. (Sometimes Irving has been less helpful, like when he’s argued the Earth is flat.) It is one thing to push for a league to........

© Daily Intelligencer

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