On March 15, 2022, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets scored 60 points against the Orlando Magic, a difficult feat, yet possible for Irving who is a superstar basketball talent. It’s no wonder that the Brooklyn Nets want him back on the court full-time.
Currently, Irving is playing league games on a part-time basis because he has elected to not get vaccinated. That’s his choice. However, per a New York citywide policy stating that unvaccinated employees cannot work for a city employer, put in place by former mayor Bill de Blasio, Irving cannot play [work] in Brooklyn.
Irving’s return to the court, after suspension due to his desire to play away games only in lieu of the rule and his personal decision, was restored this week. The Nets have had a change of heart… primarily because of player injuries. He’ll be able to play home games starting with Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center.
On the court, Irving is a savant and thus the conversations have grown louder surrounding the hypocrisy of the city’s rule and that Irving should be allowed to play in Brooklyn.
To be quite honest, the rule is stupid. The NBA commissioner agrees.
Irving couldn’t play in Brooklyn because he was an unvaccinated employee of a New York City employer. Meanwhile, other unvaccinated players could play in Brooklyn and Manhattan while unvaccinated – because they’re not an employee of a New York City employer. Sure, an unvaccinated player would only be in the city for the night of their game, but hypothetically, unvaccinated players may very well play against the Nets or Knicks every game, so it made little sense to prevent Irving from playing.
This point was illuminated when Irving appeared at the Barclays Center to watch in the arena where he was not allowed to work. The scene was so hypocritical that Nets player Kevin Durant called out New York City Mayor Eric Adams during a press conference after that game to pressure him to change the rule.
At the time, Adams stated that he did not intend on changing the rules simply to accommodate Kyrie Irving.
Again, I understand the Nets’ cause: Kyrie Irving on the court increases their opportunities to win a championship. However, if the Nets, specifically Kevin Durant, wish to pressure Eric Adams to change course on anything, they should pressure him not to bring back the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy and the plainclothes police unit that executed it.
A federal judge found the policy unconstitutional in 2013 and the stop-and-frisk unit was disbanded.
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Adams says that he’ll reinstate stop-and-frisk the right way, but there is no right way to execute stop-and-frisk. Stop-and-frisk allows police officers to detain someone for questioning on the street, in public housing projects or in private buildings where landlords request police patrols – but the people detained are disproportionately Black and Latinx as opposed to white. According to the New York ACLU, from 2003 to 2020, 85 percent of individuals stopped each year by New York City police were either Black or Latinx; the majority were Black. Every year of stop-and-frisk, the majority of those stopped and frisked weren’t guilty of committing any crime.
This is worthy of the Nets’ and Kevin Durant’s attention.
While I agree that the citywide mandate concerning vaccinated employees is hypocritical, the NBA and its players (as well as corporate partners) should care more about a policy known for harming its consumer base. To be clear, Kyrie Irving can take the vaccine and a citywide vaccine mandate isn’t a problem anymore. Black people can’t stop being Black as a means of preventing their disproportionate targeting and arrest under stop-and-frisk.
I doubt, however, that Kevin Durant will bring that up in a press conference. Because winning a championship clearly matters more.
Photo: Det. Anthony Mannuzza, left, and Police Officer Robert Martin, right, simulate a street stop during training, June 20, 2012, at the NYPD training facility, which is re-training officers on how to do street stops amid criticism over stop-and-frisk. (AP Photo/Colleen Long)
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .