NBA star Kyrie Irving remains a vaccine holdout even though his team, the Brooklyn Nets, won’t let him play until he gets jabbed. Irving finally spoke about the controversy around his vaccination status earlier this week on an Instagram Live broadcast — his first public comments in more than two weeks. He said his decision not to be vaccinated was a “personal choice” made without political motivations.
“I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream over this mandate and what’s going on in this world,” Irving said. “I love the game. Sometimes you really have to make choices that ultimately can affect that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2021. I am a bona fide hooper. My legacy will be written forever. I’m grateful to be given this talent to be able to perform on a high stage. But it’s not just about that at this point. It’s bigger than the game.”
When the New York City vaccine mandate went into effect in September, Irving’s vaccine refusal meant he could not play in 43 regular-season games — 41 at Barclays Center, plus two at Madison Square Garden where the Nets play the Knicks — and another two preseason games in Brooklyn, ESPN reported. Nets general manager Sean Marks confirmed that Irving would lose money only for those games, roughly $380,000 per game. Irving stands to lose more than $17 million from sitting out games in New York.
Irving said it’s not about the money.
“You think I want to give up my livelihood because of a mandate? Because I don’t have accommodations? Because I’m unvaccinated? Come on. I’m not going to be used as a person in this agenda,” Irving said on Instagram, New York Daily News reported. “It’s not about the Nets. It’s not about the organization. It’s not about the NBA. It’s not politics. It’s not any one thing that I’m pinpointing. It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”
Irving got backlash and support on Twitter.
Some seemed skeptical about Irving’s own agenda. “The shit with Kyrie Irving ain’t even about the vaccine, he’s just folding like he has ever since he left Lebron, the anti-vax shit ain’t revolutionary, it’s typical pseudo-religious flat-earth indigenous to bullshit propaganda. Kyrie is a moron,” tweeted christopher marshall @superchrismarsh.
Others supported Irving’s decision. iAm_Asia @nurse_luv081119 tweeted, “Kyrie shouldnt have to explain himself to NOBODY!!!!!!!!!”
Political analyst and social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins asked, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if #KyrieIrving got together with other millionaire brothers and just started a league?”
The NBA does not have a vaccine mandate for players, but it requires its teams to comply with local city mandates.
“I chose to be unvaccinated,” Irving said. “That was my choice. I would ask y’all to just respect that choice. I’m going to stay in shape, be ready to play and be ready to rock out with my teammates and be part of this whole thing. This is not a political thing here. It’s not about the NBA or any organization. It’s about my life and what I’m choosing to do.”
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