Unvaccinated Kyrie Irving Could Technically Play in Brooklyn, If the Nets Pay a Fine

Irving taking the floor inside the Barclays Center would come with a maximum fine of $5,000 per game

Kyrie Irving dribbles the ball during a 2022 game against the Pacers. The unvaccinated NBA star could technically play in Brooklyn if the Nets pay a fine.
Kyrie Irving dribbles the ball during a 2022 game against the Pacers.
Andy Lyons/Getty

Putting aside the medical and ethical issues associated with setting an unvaccinated player loose in an arena packed with fans located in an area of the country where COVID-19 cases are still skyrocketing, it appears it would be legally possible for the Nets to deploy Kyrie Irving at home games in Brooklyn if the NBA team is willing to pay a price.

Per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, 29-year-old Irving could suit up and play inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and then deal with the fines for noncompliance outlined in former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order The Key to NYC. The penalties begin with a warning for a first offense and then increase incrementally all the way up to $5,000 for a fifth offense and all subsequent violations.

With Irving currently only playing in road games, paying a fine each time the All-Star point guard takes the floor in Brooklyn would be a way to get him on the court until he either gets vaccinated or New York City mandates a policy change in its vaccine mandates.

Although ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported “there is real optimism” within the Nets organization that Irving will be able to play once the NBA playoffs begin this spring, the franchise doesn’t have “a stomach” for bringing backing Irving in violation of local mandates in NYC.

“The Nets aren’t willing to go there now,” he reported. “They have an owner in Joe Tsai who’s been very vocal about the need for people to get vaccinated and the idea right now of having an unvaccinated player and paying a fine for it every night, there’s not a stomach for it right now.”

There’s also the matter of getting the NBA to sign off on the proposed plan, which seems unlikely to happen. As noted by a league statement from the fall about following local mandates, the NBA could step in and suspend Irving to prevent him from playing in Brooklyn. “The failure by any player to provide services called for under his Player Contract as a result of his inability to comply with local law may subject him to a reduction of his Compensation by the NBA or his team, and may also subject him to a fine, suspension, and/or other appropriate action,” per the statement.

A seven-time All-Star and a one-time NBA champion, Irving is averaging 17.7 points per game in three contests this season.

“I think … as the months evolve between now and the All-Star break into the stretch run of the season and then into the playoffs that enough in the world could change where Kyrie Irving could become a full-time player again,” Wojnarowski said.

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