On Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets announced that seven-time NBA All Star Kyrie Irving would be banned from all team activities over his decision not to get vaccinated for COVID-19. This includes practices, home and road games. Irving, who is set to make close to $34 million in the upcoming season, is reportedly holding out in support of workers who have been fired as a result of vaccine mandates.
According to a report from The Athletic, Irving is taking a stand against vaccine mandates. “Multiple sources with direct knowledge of Irving’s decision have told The Athletic that Irving is not anti-vaccine and that his stance is that he is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates,” reads the report.
“It’s a stance that Irving has explained to close teammates. To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood,” sources close to Irving reportedly said.
According to the NBA Player’s Union, 96% of NBA players have been vaccinated to date. Notable holdouts include Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal and Jonathan Isaac, the latter of which contributed his decision to natural immunity.
“I understand that the vaccine would help if you catch COVID, you’ll be able to have less symptoms from contracting it. But with me having COVID in the past, having antibodies, with my current age group and physical fitness level, it is not necessarily a fear of mine,” Isaac said at a recent press conference.
Irving and Wiggins are in a particular bind due to strict vaccine mandates in New York and San Francisco respectively. New York City has some of the most strict vaccine requirements in the nation, where proof of vaccination is required for access to essentially all businesses and outdoor gatherings. The state also has a vaccine mandate affecting both the healthcare and education sectors, among others. New York Governor Kathy Hochul deployed the National Guard in order to fill critical staffing shortages after mass firings and resignations.
On the same day Irving was barred from team activities, a judge sided with multiple healthcare workers who sued the state of New York over the mandate, ruling that the state had to honor religious exemptions. “The public interest lies with enforcing the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law,” wrote Judge David Hurd.