Vaccine mandate benching Kyrie Irving will stay, NYC mayor-elect says

FAN Editor

Kyrie Irving hasn’t played in a game at Barclays Center since last season, and now it seems the Brooklyn Nets star won’t be returning to the court anytime soon.

In an interview with CNN on Friday night, New York City’s incoming mayor, Eric Adams, said he does not plan on changing the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which requires residents to have at least one shot to enter indoor gyms, including Barclays Center. It’s that mandate that has kept Irving, who has said he does not want to get inoculated, benched.

“New York City is not going to change their rule,” Adams said in an interview on CNN. “And again, it is up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to a full understanding on how to keep him on the Nets and to continue to look at all of our athletes that are coming here. Again, I think the NBA and Kyrie is going to come to a conclusion on this.”

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving at Barclays Center on January 18, 2020, in New York City.  Al Bello / Getty

In mid-October, the Nets decided that the starting point guard wouldn’t play or practice at all with the team because he isn’t eligible to play in home games, per the vaccine mandate. Irving, 29, would have been able to practice with the Nets and play in road games outside New York. 

In an interview with ESPN last week, Nets owner Joe Tsai said he hoped Irving would get vaccinated since the team is following local vaccine guidelines.

“Either he has to be vaccinated in order to come back if the New York mandate is still in place,” Tsai said. “And don’t ask me when they may or may not change the New York mandate.”

The team is still paying Irving for away games, but he is giving up about half of his $35 million salary by missing the home games.

“I am doing what’s best for me. I know the consequences here and if it means that I’m judged and demonized for that, that’s just what it is,” Irving said in an Instagram Live following the team’s announcement. “That’s the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate.”

“So what? It’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s not always about the money. It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money?”

Irving reiterated that his choosing not to get vaccinated was “just about the freedom of what I want to do,” and that he was not planning on retiring.

Adams, who defeated Republican challenger Curtis Sliwa in Tuesday’s election, will take office on January 1.

Justin Carissimo contributed reporting.

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