Blythe Hastings ’23
With Kyrie Irving unable to suit up for the Nets’ home opener due to New York City regulations surrounding people who aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19, those against vaccination mandates made their way to the team’s home arena to voice their support for the All-Star guard. Reports and newscasters documented the protest, which began hours before the Nets took the floor to face the Hornets at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
An hour before the scheduled tip-off, images were taken by the media of a protester holding a sign that reads “I stand with Kyrie,” adding that there were at least 500 people outside of the arena voicing their support, holding signs and chanting. Minutes later, the media shared a video of protesters that had bypassed security barricades to chant “let Kyrie play.” In a video shared by independent journalist, protesters can be heard chanting “I’m with Kyrie” and “no more mandates,” in addition to “let Kyrie play.” Irving, who is entering his 11th NBA season, has not been with the Nets since general manager Sean Marks announced that the All-Star guard could not practice or play with the team until he is eligible to be a full time participant.
He was named the Rookie of the Year after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. As of Wednesday, Oct. 13, Irving has not received a COVID-19 vaccine, taking to Instagram live to say “in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice.” Because of his choice, Irving is ineligible to participate in 43 of the Nets’ 82 regular-season games that are played in New York City, thus leading to the decision of Marks and the organization.
Under New York City’s guidelines, unvaccinated Knicks and Nets players are not allowed to enter their home arenas for games. Released through the Nets general manager in Marks, the team’s official statement said that “we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.” Irving is set to miss 1/91.6 of his annual salary for the 43 games he will miss in New York City. He still receives financial compensation for the road games he is inactive for.