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Saturday Sports: Kyrie Irvings's suspension, lawsuit against Washington Commanders' owner

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Kyrie Irving might soon be back on court, despite an antisemitic post - and a lawsuit against the guy trying to sell Washington, D.C.'s football team. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The NBA Players Association says Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, suspended earlier this month for sharing a link to an antisemitic film, could be back on court, quote, "very soon." Howard, in this era of athletic activism, league and media encourage players to speak their minds on social issues. Is it just inevitable not all of their opinions are going to be informed, enlightened or just?

BRYANT: Well, that's exactly right, Scott. I talked to one NBA executive this week who told me that the NBA resembled a soap opera that happened to play basketball.

SIMON: Oh, oh.

BRYANT: So this is where we are. This is part of the evolution of the athlete activist. Or when they say they're using that platform, are you sure you want them to use their platform? And for the most - a large part of this decade, it has been for good causes. It's been to be on the right side of issues. But as we saw during the pandemic with the anti-vax stuff with some of the prominent players, whether it was Kyrie Irving or Aaron Rodgers, there have been many players who have been sowing disinformation and misinformation and downright harmful viewpoints.

And I think in the case of Kyrie Irving, the response has been in some way not exactly comparable but almost as damaging as what Kyrie was saying because now he's been turned into a martyr by some NBA players who feel like the league has cracked down on him. And they're trying to break him and all of those things. And there is absolutely a measure of that from the NBA where they're trying to say, listen. We are running a multibillion-dollar business here. And we can't have you undermine that business with your views. And I think that what's been interesting about this is it's also a generational thing where, does the world need to know every single thing that's coming out of your mouth?

SIMON: Yeah, yeah.

BRYANT: They need to know all of your thoughts.

SIMON: Very good question. Let me get to Washington, D.C., attorney general lawsuit this week - filed a lawsuit against Daniel Snyder, who owns the Washington Commanders, at least for the next five minutes, alleging the team and the NFL colluded to deceive fans about investigation into the team's toxic work environment and allegations of sexual harassment. More and more lawsuits against professional teams, aren't there?

BRYANT: No, 100%. And this is another byproduct of the changing culture in sports. It's been a boys club for a century.

BRYANT: And when you say boys club, it doesn't just mean that you don't have any female coaches or you don't have any sort of female executives or things like that or players on the field. It also means that you have to change your workplace environment. You have to change how you operate, how you act, how you treat people, the things you say. And we've seen that with Washington. We are seeing that with the Phoenix Suns with Robert Sarver, who's now forced to sell his team. We already saw it with Donald Sterling back in 2014 with the Los Angeles Clippers. You're seeing Ime Udoka, the head coach of the Boston Celtics - same thing with creating a sexual harassment, toxic workplace environment there. So it's a new world. And these organizations - even the most powerful owners have to get in line with this.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, talk to you soon, my friend. Thanks very much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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