Brooklyn Nets basketball star and vaccine holdout Kyrie Irving can now return to his home court. New York City is planning to relax its covid-19 vaccine mandate on March 24 and allow exemptions for athletes and entertainers, which will make way for Irving to once again play at the Barclays Center in National Basketball Association home games this season.
Irving will likely make his home debut on March 27 against the Charlotte Hornets.
“We’re going to do it in the right way,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said about relaxing coronavirus rules. “We’re going to follow the science … we’re going to make the right decision. And in New York, no matter what you do, this is 8.8 million people and 30 million opinions, so you’re never going to satisfy New Yorkers, so you must go with the logic, your heart, and the science.”
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made vaccinations mandatory as a workplace safety rule in 2021 before leaving office.
Irving was a vocal opponent against receiving a coronavirus vaccine in the league, although he never gave a clear reason for his stance.
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He did comment on his situation, however.
“I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream over this mandate and what’s going on in this world,” Irving said in October 2021 after the Brooklyn Nets told him that he could not play in games or practices until he complied with New York City’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
“I love the game. Sometimes you really have to make choices that ultimately can affect that,” Irving said. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2021. I am a bona fide hooper. My legacy will be written forever. I’m grateful to be given this talent to be able to perform on a high stage. But it’s not just about that at this point. It’s bigger than the game.”
Irving also commented on social media.
“You think I want to give up my livelihood because of a mandate? Because I don’t have accommodations? Because I’m unvaccinated? Come on. I’m not going to be used as a person in this agenda,” Irving said on Instagram, New York Daily News reported. “It’s not about the Nets. It’s not about the organization. It’s not about the NBA. It’s not politics. It’s not any one thing that I’m pinpointing. It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”
Irving was not allowed to play at the Barclay Center due to NYC vaccine mandates put in January 2021, he was allowed to play road games at arenas where vaccination mandates were not in place.
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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. Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks confirmed that Irving would lose money only for those games — about $380,000 per game. Irving stood to lose more than $17 million from sitting out games in New York.
Even though he could not play, Irving did show up for games at the Barclay Center, and the Nets were fined $50,000 after Irving joined the team in the locker room after a game in early March, Yahoo reported.
So has Irving won? Some say yes because he stuck by his principles. Others point out that his anti-vax stance cost him money and playing time.
Irving’s re-entry to home games comes as an opportune time. The Nets need him to push for a playoff spot with nine games remaining in the season.
Photo: Kyrie Irving, Nets @ Cavs, Jan. 17, 2022 by Erik Drost, https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrost88/51831772061/
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en