On Wednesday, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who had been told he was not permitted to play or practice with the team until he met the NBA’s eligibility requirements, which included getting vaccinated for COVID-19, revealed in an Instagram video that he has not been vaccinated.
Irving had remained silent on his vaccination status at the NBA’s media day on September 27, saying he “would like to keep all that private.” He added, “I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team. … I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”
Then last Friday a New York City Hall official told CNN that Irving could practice with the team but could not play in the Nets’ home games at Barclays Center because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.
On Tuesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks said, “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.” He also stated, “It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction.”
In the Instagram video Wednesday, Irving stated that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies,” adding, “What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine? This wasn’t an issue before the season started. This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family.”
Irving responded to Marks’ comments about winning a championship: “You think I really want to give up my dream to go after a championship? Do you think I really just want to give up my job? You think I really just want to sit at home and not go after the things with my teammates that I’ve been able to grow with, to learn with?”
Irving made clear that the vaccination issue would not force him from ultimately playing, asserting, “Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated.”
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