The Brooklyn Nets announced Tuesday that star guard Kyrie Irving won’t participate in practice or play in games until he fulfills New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The city requires local athletes to have at least one dose of the vaccine in order to participate in their sport, and so far, Irving has not complied with the rule.
Technically, Irving would have been eligible to play with the Nets on the road — where the local mandate doesn’t apply, except for the team’s two road games against the crosstown New York Knicks — but Brooklyn made the decision to have Irving sidelined until “until he is eligible to be a full participant,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
During an NBA season, teams play 41 games at home and the other 41 on the road.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Marks said. “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. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.”
If Irving remains unvaccinated, his salary could be affected. The NBA announced that unvaccinated players who refuse to comply with local vaccine mandates would be fined 1/91.6th of their salary for every game missed — meaning Irving would stand to lose roughly $380,000 per game. It is not immediately clear if Irving would be fined for missing road games where the mandate doesn’t apply because it is the Nets who are choosing to have Irving not play.
Irving has not elaborated on his decision to avoid the COVID-19 shot. Rolling Stone reported that the seven-time All-Star has liked anti-vaccination posts on social media and follows an account that claims “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.”
With a trio of Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, the Nets were seen as clear favorites to win the NBA title this upcoming season. But now, Brooklyn will have to get by without Irving — as long as the 29-year-old refuses to get the shot.