New York — Nets star Kyrie Irving is making sure WNBA players can sit out the season and not stress about a paycheck.
Irving is committing $1.5 million to supplement the income of players who choose not to play this season, whether it be because of coronavirus concerns or social justice reasons.
The funds will come from the KAI Empowerment Initiative that Irving launched Monday. It will also provide players with a financial literacy program created by UBS.
Irving said that with the help of WNBA players Natasha Cloud — who chose to sit out — and Jewell Loyd, he connected with several WNBA players who discussed with him the challenges they faced in deciding whether to play.
The season began Saturday and will be played entirely at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
He decided to help with the financial burden in a league where the top annual salary is a little more than $200,000.
“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.
Players such as Cloud and Atlanta’s Renee Montgomery opted against playing for social reform reasons, though it’s unclear how many will qualify for Irving’s program.
To be eligible, players must provide insight into the circumstances surrounding their decision and not be receiving salary support from any other entity. An opt-out for medical reasons must be connected to the coronavirus pandemic.
They need to apply by Aug. 11 and recipients will be notified on Aug. 24.
Whistles safer at restart
Referees at the NBA and WNBA restarts are using the same whistles as they always have — albeit with one subtle but important addition.
A small black bag is being slipped onto each whistle, designed to collect any spittle that might emanate from a referee’s mouth and through the device itself when being used during play.
Whistles aren’t just whistles, not at this level.
They’re high-tech, made by Fox 40 — the company that provides whistles to NHL, NFL and college referees, among others — and calibrated to work with Precision Time by using radio technology to communicate between the referee and the scorer’s table to instantly stop the clock when blown.