Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is not a friend to the Washington Wizards. He’s been a rival of John Wall’s for much of the last decade, and I’d say that Bradley Beal is a rival too. But Irving deserves praise this week, and it was influenced by none other than Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud.
On Monday, Irving announced that he would create a $1.5 million fund to supplement WNBA players’ salaries if they chose to opt out of the season because of coronavirus concerns or to fight for social justice causes, in an article by the Associated Press. Cloud and Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd were two WNBA players whom Irving spoke to before making the decision.
The $1.5 million alone could fund seven players who are earning maximum level salaries which can be up to $215,000, the salary that forward Emma Meesseman is earning this summer on a one-year deal. However, it should be able to fund significantly more players because someone like Meesseman likely has the starpower to get salary support from endorsers.
In general, players who are eligible for the fund must have opted out of the 2020 WNBA season and not receive salary support from other sources. Cloud will not be eligible because Converse, her shoe endorser, is paying the equivalent of her WNBA salary this season.
Elena Delle Donne is listed on the Mystics’ roster though she is not in Bradenton, Florida, where games are being played. Since she is getting paid by the team, she is also ineligible for the fund. Tina Charles was granted a medical exception and would be ineligible for Irving’s fund as well.
The remaining Mystics player who opted out was LaToya Sanders, who may be eligible.
Props to Kyrie for creating this fund. Even though the salaries for WNBA players are higher than ever before, a team’s salary cap is still $1.3 million, well below the $1.5 million Irving pledged himself. Also, there are WNBA players on other teams who have opted out and don’t necessarily have star power to get salary support like Cloud did. She also deserves props for fighting for fellow WNBA players who may face a stronger short-term economic fallout than her NBA counterparts.