Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has slammed New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ decision to lift the private-sector vaccine mandate on November 1, while allowing his own mandate for local government employees to continue.
‘If I can work and be unvaccinated, then all of my brothers and sisters who are also unvaccinated should be able to do the same, without being discriminated against, vilified, or fired,’ Irving tweeted. ‘This enforced Vaccine/Pandemic is one the biggest violations of HUMAN RIGHTS in history.’
The unvaccinated Irving was sidelined for much of last season due to the city’s mandate for public arenas and private workplaces, as well as the Nets’ decision to bench him for away games, citing their preference for full-time players. Team officials ultimately relented in January, allowing him to play road games, and the city followed in February by lifting the indoor mandate, allowing him to play at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Irving has been at the center of several vaccine-related controversies since the city began requiring private business to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace in December of 2021 as the Omicron wave began killing hundreds of New Yorkers. Many others who refused the vaccine were fired.
‘This puts the choice in the hands of New York businesses,’ Adams said Tuesday after announcing that the private-sector ban would be lifted on November 1.
Irving made waves last week, by posting a 20-year-old clip of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones describing a ‘new world order’ that would unleash viruses to gain control of the public.
In the video Jones said: ‘Yes there have been corrupt empires. Yes they manipulate. Yes there are secret societies. Yes there have been oligarchies throughout history.
‘And yes, today in 2002, there is a tyrannical organization calling itself the New World Order…by releasing diseases and viruses and plagues upon us, we then basically get shoved into their system.’
The video was titled: ‘Never Forget – Alex Jones Tried To Warn Us.’
The vast majority of NBA players are completely inoculated against COVID-19, with the league consistently boasting roughly 95-percent vaccination rate among team rosters. However, there have been several notable holdouts, including Irving and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac.
In July, Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins said he regretted getting vaccinated at the NBA’s urging, despite the fact that it helped him win his first league title back in June.
‘I did it, and I was an All-Star this year and champion, so that was the good part, just not missing out on the year, the best year of my career,’ Wiggins told FanSided. ‘But for my body, I just don’t like putting all that stuff in my body, so I didn’t like that and I didn’t like that it wasn’t my choice. I didn’t like that it was ”either get this or don’t play.”’
The NBA did not require players to get vaccinated last season, but did require players to follow local mandates, meaning that Wiggins would not have been able to play home games in San Francisco were he to remain unvaccinated. Ultimately he chose to get the injection, while others like Irving held out until New York offered an exemption in March.
Wiggins applied for a religious exemption with the NBA but was denied, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health added that it wouldn’t consider exemptions of any type.
The decision proved to be a good one, professionally speaking. Not only did Wiggins preserve his $32 million salary for the season, but he had his best season, averaging just north of 17 points a game while making a career-high 39.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.
After his first All-Star selection in February, Wiggins helped the Warriors to an NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics, averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game in the six-game series.
The 27-year-old is entering the last season of his five-year, $147 million deal and will make $33.6 million for the year.
While Wiggins was open and straightforward with fans about his objection to the vaccine, Irving ignited controversy in New York over his refusal to get injected.
The seven-time All-Star played only 29 of 82 games this season due to a local New York City mandate, for which he was ultimately given an exemption, and the team’s decision to hold him out of practice and road games, which the club reversed in late December.
Following the first-round playoff exit, Nets assistant coach and former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire admitted that Irving’s frequent absences had a significant impact on Brooklyn this year.
‘Yeah, I think it hurt us’ Stoudemire, who has since left the Nets, told ESPN in May. ‘It definitely hurt us because we didn’t have consistency enough with Kyrie to build chemistry with the group, with the team.
‘He’s playing only away games depending which city it is… can’t play in New York … therefore we had different lineups, different matchups depending on the game schedule. So it made it difficult for us coaches to figure out who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie. So it was difficult for us to manage that so yeah, it was part of that.’
Irving was the subject of trade rumors, but he and All-Star teammate Kevin Durant now seem prepared to begin the 2022-23 season with the Nets.