Kyrie Irving Defends NFL Players Protesting During Anthem: ‘It’s What’s Right’

CANTON, Mass. — Kyrie Irving may not like talking about his relationship with LeBron James, but he’s eager to tackle other issues — most notably the latest wave of athlete protests.

Donald Trump created a president-athlete divide of sorts this weekend, taking aim at Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors for refusing to come to the White House and NFL players for kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Many coaches, owners and athletes — including Irving’s teammate, Jaylen Brown — have decried Trump’s comments, and at the Celtics’ media day Monday, it was Irving’s turn to weigh in.

“Man, it was a heck of a weekend, I’ll tell you that,” Irving said. “It’s been a lot of emotions, a lot of disconnect, a lot of opinions. … To be able to have that realization that our voices can be heard, and to have that intent on why individuals do what they do in order to feel like they’re making a change in society — (protesting athletes are) pushing forward a culture that ultimately was founded on some questionable things, and it’s your right to have that ability to stand up and say something.”

Some believe NFL players kneeling during the national anthem is a sign of disrespect, but Irving has no problem with it — as long as those protesting understand the meaning behind their actions.

“Whether it be kneeling, whatever the action is, as long as the individual knows the intent behind it, there’s no black and white, there’s no gray area in between, there’s no figuring it out,” Irving said. ”

“It’s what’s right, and that’s what’s right for our society and human beings. It’s not between the veterans and the military and someone kneeling and the national anthem. It’s much bigger than that. It’s a human being thing. Knowing that intent on fighting the inequalities that you have a problem with, I feel like it’s every person’s right to speak up and say what they feel on it.”

Irving believes it’s especially important for athletes to take a stand now, even if there’s fallout from their words or actions.

“Certain individuals have taken a stance, and the positive repercussions have never come,” he added. “They’ve either disappeared, or they’ve never been heard from again, or they’ve lost their job, or they’ve done something for standing up for what they believe in. And it’s been coming from individuals that have (been) bashed for making a decision based on what they want to do with their lives, and that’s something I can’t agree with.”

That comment doesn’t sound very optimistic, but Irving end his dialog on a positive note.

“The hope is progression, man,” he said. “But I think the beautiful thing is people are starting to wake up.”

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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