Kyrie Irving Pledges $1.5 Million to Assist WNBA Players Who Opted Out of the 2020 Season

Star Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has pledged $1.5 million to assist WNBA players who have opted out of the 2020 season. 

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The $1.5 million will provide security for the WNBA players as they sit-out the season, whether it be for concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic, or for social justice reasons. 

The funds will come from the KAI Empowerment Initiative Irving formed Monday to “provide funds directly to each player who meets the qualifications of the program. In addition, this initiative will give all WNBA players access to a comprehensive financial literacy program created by UBS. As a continuation of his efforts to support and advocate for women and equality, Kyrie wants to ensure that his WNBA colleagues have access to the income and tools needed to obtain their financial goals,” as per a press release. 

Irving made the decision after speaking with Seattle Storm guard, Jewell Loyd, and Washington Mystics guard, Natasha Cloud, the latter of which will be sitting out the season. Discussions revolved around the varying challenges WNBA players are currently facing, and different ways to support them and their cause. 

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He eventually came to the decision to help with the financial burden in a league in which the top salary is a little more than $200,000 and the average salary is currently about $116,000, significantly less than what their NBA counterparts earn. 

“In these conversations, I have learned about the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and how it will impact their lives, family, and overall well-being,” Irving said in a statement. “This platform was created to provide support for all WNBA players in hopes to relieve some of the financial strain imposed during these challenging times. 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.”

In order to be eligible for the funds, players must submit a formal request and provide insight into their decision to sit-out the season. Players may not receive salary support from another entity, and an opt-out for medical reasons must be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Further details are listed on the KAI Empowerment Fund website. Applications will be due by Aug. 11, and the recipients will be notified on Aug. 24. 

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