Kyrie Irving starts $1.5 million fund for WNBA players sitting out season

For WNBA players who have opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, Kyrie Irving wants to give them a safety net.

The Brooklyn Nets player announced the launch of his KAI Empowerment Initiative on Monday, which will give financial support to active WNBA players who are sitting out the season due to “personal, professional, health, and/or safety-related reasons.” Irving is not playing in the NBA’s bubble restart as he continues to recover from midseason shoulder surgery.

"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, via the Associated Press.

Kyrie Irving stands on a basketball court.
Kyrie Irving has started a $1.5 million fund to assist WNBA players who have opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

WNBA players will need to qualify for assistance

According to the Associated Press, Irving came up with this idea after talking to WNBA players Natasha Cloud and Jewell Lloyd. They put him in touch with other WNBA players who filled him in on everything they had to consider when making the decision to play or opt out during a pandemic.

The $1.5 million initiative is fully funded by Irving, and could provide significant assistance to WNBA players who typically top out at $200,000 a season. Twelve players — including Cloud — have opted out of the WNBA’s “wubble” season, which is being played in a bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

This initiative has four general requirements for all applicants: they must be an active WNBA player who has officially opted out of the season, they must share insight into the reason they opted out, they cannot receive any salary support from any other organization, and any medical opt out must be related to COVID-19.

The KAI Empowerment Initiative will also give all WNBA players access to a comprehensive financial literacy program.

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