NBA commissioner Adam Silver criticized the New York City mandate that prevents unvaccinated athletes on area teams — specifically the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving — from playing in home games, yet allows unvaccinated players on visiting teams to take the court at the city’s arenas.
“This law in New York, the oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players,” Silver told ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday. “I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who is unvaccinated can play in Barclays but the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.”
The commissioner’s comments weren’t so much in support of the anti-vax Irving playing in Brooklyn again as they were a suggestion for Mayor Eric Adams to reexamine the mandate that creates a competitive advantage for visiting teams. For example, reportedly unvaccinated Sacramento Kings forward Justin Holiday played four games in the New York City area over the course of this season — twice in Brooklyn, including a Valentine’s Day game, and twice at Madison Square Garden — as a member of the visiting team. Irving, meanwhile, as a member of the Nets organization, was forced by law to miss the Feb. 14 game, even though he and Holiday share the same vaccine status.
Silver, however, speculated that with Covid cases declining in New York City after Omicron highs, Mayor Adams might ultimately reexamine the mandate, which was put in place by his predecessor Bill de Blasio.
“So while, again, my personal view is people should get vaccinated and boosted, I can imagine a scenario where Brooklyn, as part of New York City, with a new mayor now who wasn’t in place, Eric Adams, when that original ordinance was put into place, I could see him deciding to change along the way and say it’s no longer necessary to have a mandatory vaccination requirement, as I said, particularly one that only affects home players,” Silver added.
Following the trade of James Harden for Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant’s injury, the preseason powerhouse Brooklyn Nets are suddenly on the outskirts of the playoff picture as they’ve recently been forced to play home games without any of their Big Three talents; Simmons has not yet returned to the court after taking a mental health leave all season from his previous team, the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets are obviously hopeful Mayor Adams revisits the New York City mandate ahead of the playoffs so all three of their stars can play together at home for the first time.
Speaking to reporters this weekend about his inability to play in home games, Irving — the league’s most prominent unvaccinated player and vocal anti-vaxxer — told reporters, “There’s no guilt that I feel. I’m the only player that has to deal with this in New York City because I play there. If I was anywhere else in another city, then it probably wouldn’t be the same circumstances. But because I’m there, we have Eric Adams, we have the New York mandate, we have things going on that are real-life circumstances that are not just affecting me, bro. So you ask me these questions, I don’t feel guilt. I’m just living my life as best I can, just like everybody else that missed these last two years.”