What’s the deal with Kyrie Irving?


David Jones | Flickr

Kyle McKee, Sports Editor

Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving is part of the 22% of the adult population in the United States that hasn’t received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, Nets General Manager Sean Marks announced on Oct. 12 that Irving will not play or practice with the team until he fully complies with New York City’s local vaccine mandate.

New York City’s mandate requires people to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to enter restaurants, bars and indoor venues. In the case of New York NBA players that includes the Barclays Center which is the home of the Brooklyn Nets. and Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

However, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s term is ending on Dec. 31, so the newly elected mayor could end the mandate, allowing Irving to play in Nets home games.

Given these current regulations, Irving isn’t permitted to play at home games. New York City seemed to allow for some flexibility after deeming the Nets’ practice facility as a private office space allowing Irving to practice with the team, according to The Athletic. However Nets management made it clear that they don’t want Irving around unless he’s vaccinated and able to play in all of the team’s games.

Irving hasn’t spoken to the media about his situation but went on Instagram Live on Oct. 14 to share his thoughts.

“It’s reality that, you know, in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated,” Irving said. “I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice. And I would ask y’all just to respect that choice, and I am gonna just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing.”

During the live stream, Irving mentioned that he was promised an exemption from the NBA that would allow him to play while being unvaccinated. He also mentioned that he wants to inspire and influence people in the right way. However, Irving has a history of spreading misinformation by openly discussing his theories on how the Earth is actually flat which has influenced children and frustrated teachers.

Kyrie also debunked rumors that stated he would retire if the Nets decided to trade him as a result of not getting vaccinated.

“And no I’m not retiring, and no I’m not leaving this game like this,” Irving said. “There’s still so much more work to do and there’s still so many other youngins to inspire. Because I know they want to be better than me. And I can’t wait to play against all y’all on this stage.”

With the 2021-22 NBA season now underway, the Nets drama does not look to be ending anytime soon. However, that could change once the NBA starts taking money out of Kyrie’s pocket, according to an article by Jasmyn Wimbish of CBS Sports Network discussing the money Irving could potentially lose.

“Per an agreement between the league and the National Basketball Players Association, unvaccinated players who will miss games due to local COVID-19 vaccine mandates stand to lose 1/91.6 of their salary for each game they are forced to miss,” Jasmyn Wimbush of CBS Sports said. “For Irving, he stands to lose about $380K per home game. Marks said that Irving will still get paid for away games that he misses due to the team deciding to keep him away from the team.”

The most puzzling line during Irving’s live stream is when he said “I’m still uncertain about a lot of things.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receiving a COVID-19 vaccination reduces the risk of COVID-19 a great deal. Data also shows that the people who experience breakthrough cases, contracting COVID-19 while being fully vaccinated, experience less severe symptoms than people who aren’t vaccinated.

Coupled with data from other sources like the Mayo Clinic on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, they all suggest that receiving just one dose is extremely beneficial not just to oneself but to others. It’s unclear what Irving, or anyone who isn’t vaccinated, could be uncertain about.

As for the Brooklyn Nets, they’ll enter the 2021-22 season without Irving and the drama that surrounds him is only increasing as the season progresses.