Although he’s exclusively been playing in road games for the Nets due to his vaccination status, Kyrie Irving was unable to take the floor last night when his team visited the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden because MSG is bound by the same local rules that govern the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Nets, who somehow won last night, have been terrible without Irving, but he has been adamant that he won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19. And although he said agrees with NBA commissioner Adam Silver that New York’s rule about allowing unvaccinated visiting players to participate while barring unvaccinated residents from playing at MSG and Barclays “doesn’t quite make sense,” NYC Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t plan on changing the policy to accommodate Irving.
“First of all, I think the rule’s unfair. I believe that we are saying to out-of-town athletes that they can come in and not be vaccinated, yet New York athletes do have to be vaccinated,” Adams said at City Hall. “I am really, really leery about sending the wrong message. Having this city close down again keeps me up at night, and the message was put in place, the rule was put in place, to start changing it now I think it would send mixed messages. I’m struggling with this, just to be honest with you.”
If the rule doesn’t change in New York City, the Nets could be at a big disadvantage if they end up matching up with the Knicks in the NBA playoffs as Irving wouldn’t be able to play in home or away games. Brooklyn would face the same issue against the Raptors as Toronto is also not allowing unvaccinated players to take the court (or ice in the NHL).
Speaking Saturday, Irving expressed hope the mandate would get overturned and he’d be able to play in home games.
“There’s no guilt that I feel,” Irving said. “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. I didn’t have a plan in place while all this was going on, didn’t know. The NBA and the NBPA made it very clear that there would be things that I would be able to do to work around this. And that’s off the table. So you tell me if I’m just alone out here or do I have support from everybody else that’s dealing with the same thing?”
Most of Irving’s peers aren’t dealing with the same thing as more than 95% of NBA players are vaccinated.