NBA player Kyrie Irving, a basketball shooting guard for the Brooklyn Nets, has been benched and it’s not due to injury. Irving is a covid vaccine holdout and the team’s management and owner say he can’t play unless he is vaccinated.
While the NBA has not officially said players must be vaccinated, most of the arenas the teams play in have vaccinated-only rules.
Yesterday, the Nets informed Irving he can’t rejoin the team — either for games or practices at home or on the road — until he gets vaccinated.
“Ultimately, yes. He has a choice to make, and he made his choice,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks, according to the New York Post. Marks made the decision with team owner Joe Tsai. “My job here is to make what we deem as the best choices for the organization moving ahead as a whole. They’re not always ones that are going to be met with open arms and thumbs up. These are hard decisions.”
Under New York City vaccine mandates, Irving cannot play at home games at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.
When the NYC vaccine mandate went into effect, Irving could not play in 43 regular-season games — 41 at Barclays Center, plus two at MSG — and another two preseason games in Brooklyn, ESPN reported. Marks confirmed that Irving would lose money only for those games, roughly $380,000 per game. Irving stands to lose more than $17 million from sitting out games in New York.
“Kyrie talks about it as a sort of personal choice issue, which I respect. But we all need to not forget our goal,” Tsai told the Post last month in San Diego. “The championship team needs to have everybody pulling the same direction.”
On Oct. 9, Irving tweeted that he was “protected by God.”
Many tweeted support for Irving.
Joe Pompliano, founder of sports business platform Huddle Up, tweeted, “Kyrie Irving is extremely generous: · Bought George Floyd’s mom a house · Paid tuition for 9 HBCU students · Bought 200+ kids Christmas presents · Provided 250k Thanksgiving meals in NYC · Donated $1.5M to WNBA players It’s sad to see him called selfish for a personal decision.”
Fellow NBA player Andrew Wiggins of the Golden Gate Warriors recently gave in to pressure to get vaccinated after being among the player vaccine holdouts. According to the NBA, 95 percent of its players have been vaccinated.
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