Kyrie Irving will get to help the Brooklyn Nets win and/or contract Covid-19 during home games with New York City Mayor Eric Adams set to rollback vaccine requirements for athletes and performers working in the city, The New York Times reports.
The new policy is expected to go into effect today, March 24, once Adams officially announces it. On top of allowing Irving — who has refused to get vaccinated — to play home games for the Nets a month before the playoffs begin, it also arrives ahead of opening day of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, April 7.
Irving was the most prominent and public NBA player to refuse to get vaccinated, though he was far from the only one. As Rolling Stone reported at the beginning of the season, last fall, many players objected to a proposed vax mandate from the league during a summer meeting of the NBA players union. While that league policy was never enacted, Irving still wound up effectively benched due to NYC’s Covid policies.
While the Nets initially demanded Irving get vaccinated if he wanted to play at all, the team ultimately relented around December, saying he could partake in games and practices outside of NYC (he, coincidentally, made his first appearance of the season in early January, one day after the U.S. reported a record-shattering one million new Covid cases at the height of the Omicron wave). Earlier this month, Irving also earned his team a $50,000 fine when he violated NYC and NBA Covid protocols by entering the Nets locker room during a game against the New York Knicks. (A rep for Irving said the player had no comment at this time. A rep for the Nets did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment.)
Still, the fine came as it became increasingly clear that Mayor Adams was intent on loosening Covid rules in New York City (he also ended a mask mandate for schools and proof-of-vaccination requirements at restaurants and gyms). There’s also been a growing pushback against the NYC rule from both Irving’s teammates, other players in the league, and even NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Last month, Silver criticized the hypocrisy of the policy for allowing unvaccinated players on visiting teams to play in Brooklyn, but not Irving. And just a few weeks ago, Irving’s teammate Kevin Durant seemed to take a shot at Adams over the policy, saying, “I don’t get it, it just feels like at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority. But you know, everybody out here is looking for attention and that’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now, some attention.”