Kyrie Irving’s decision to essentially sit out the Brooklyn Nets’ 2021-22 NBA season is unprecedented. Never before in league history has a star player on a team that is widely regarded as the favorite to win the championship willingly taken himself off the board.
At the core of Irving’s decision to miss the season is his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccination. New York requires all pro athletes who practice or play indoors to show proof of at least one vaccine shot. Because Irving has remained steadfast in his refusal to do this, he cannot participate in Nets home games.
The Nets have made it clear that they will not accommodate Irving as a part-time player. This has led to friction between him and the organization – as well as seemingly growing discontent between him and one-time good friend Kevin Durant.
This week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the saga surrounding Irving. In the process, he offered a rather blunt message to the 29-year-old.
That message: we want you back in the NBA, get your shots.
“I hope that Kyrie, despite how strongly he feels about the vaccination, ultimately decides to get vaccinated, because I’d love to see him play basketball this season, and I’d love to see the Brooklyn Nets have their full complement of players on the floor,” Silver said.
Part of the issue here is that Irving is being forced to miss time due to New York’s rules, while other unvaccinated players in other cities don’t face similar consequences. Namely Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
When pressed on whether this was fair, Silver offered an interesting response.
“I’m not sure if fair is the right way to approach it because there’s nothing fair about this virus,” Silver said. “It’s indiscriminate in terms of who it impacts, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate that New York and other cities have passed laws that require people who both work and visit arenas to be vaccinated. That seems to be a responsible public health decision made by those locales, and those are the circumstances in which the Nets find themselves operating.
“I accept that. I think that we understand as a league we have to play the cards that are dealt, just in the same way there are variations from market to market.”
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A lot has been made of Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated. Everyone from Chris Paul to James Harden to Karl-Anthony Towns has weighed in on it. People have taken an in-depth look at his girlfriend to see her role in his thought process. It has analyzed, re-analyzed, and re-re-analyzed ad nauseam.
Regardless of where anyone falls on this matter, the fact remains – Irving will not play until he gets vaccinated. And seeing as he doesn’t plan to get vaccinated any time soon, his playing career is officially done for the foreseeable future.