Kyrie Irving will remain sidelined for the Brooklyn Nets after opting against taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Previous reports indicated Irving would have been able to only play in road games, in accordance with New York City’s guidelines, meaning he wouldn’t be available for 41 home games in the regular season, however, Nets GM Sean Marks today confirmed in a statement that Irving will not be able to play or practice with the team until he is “eligible to be a full participant.”
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, 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.”
According to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Irving, who hasn’t been with the team during pre-season, is not opposed to the vaccine itself, rather the broader implications of the workplace mandates in place, with a source saying “Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless.”
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. 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, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset. It is a decision that he believes he is capable to make given his current life dynamics.
So what does this mean for the Nets?
Under New York City’s guidelines, players on the Knicks and Nets who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 are prohibited from entering their home arenas for both practices and games.
Last week, Brooklyn’s practice facility was determined a private facility by the city, meaning Irving could practice with the team, however, the Nets’ announcement today has put the ball firmly in Irving’s court.
The standoff between the organisation and one of their star players has led to plenty of speculation about his future in Brooklyn. While trade rumours swirl, Irving, can opt-out of the final year of his deal and become a free agent next season, meaning teams are hesitant to give up too much in a deal.
On top of that, Marc Stein has recently reported that Irving could consider retirement if he were traded to another team. After he and Durant joined together in free agency, moving Irving would be a delicate situation to manage, with a resolution no closer to being found ahead of the beginning of the regular season next week.