Kyrie Irving Declines to Say Whether He Will Play Nets Home Games as Vaccine Questions Swirl

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two - Credit: Steven Ryan/Getty Images
Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two - Credit: Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving declined to answer a question on Monday about whether he will play in Brooklyn Nets home games this year given New York City’s requirement for professional athletes to be vaccinated to play indoors. “I would like to keep all that private,” he said. “Please just respect my privacy.”

Irving also declined to answer a more general question about why he has so far refused to address his vaccination status, which could jeopardize his team’s chances of winning. “Please respect my privacy,” he said. “Next question.”

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Irving was answering questions over video from a darkened room because he was unable to attend the Nets’ media day at the Barclays Center, reportedly because of New York City’s proof-of-vaccination requirement.

His absence comes two days after Rolling Stone reported on the NBA’s struggle to manage a significant subset of its players who have so far refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Among the most prominent of those players is Irving, the team’s superstar guard who long flirted with conspiracy theories. Irving’s vaccination status is a question mark hanging over the Nets as they gear up for a championship run.

Kevin Durant and James Harden, who along with Irving make up the team’s “Big Three,” were asked about their teammate on Monday.

“It’s on Kyrie,” Durant said. “It’s a personal decision.”

“I expect it not to be an issue,” Durant, a former MVP, added. “We trust in Kyrie and I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”

Harden, also a former MVP, directed reporters to Irving who, again, did not attend the team’s media day. “You guys are gonna to talk to Kyrie soon, right?” Harden said. “I’ll let you listen to what he has to say about that, but obviously Kyrie is a huge part what we’re trying to do.”

Irving’s vaccination status is unknown, but a confidant and family member told Rolling Stone that anti-vaxx players could wind up skipping home games to get around New York City’s ordinance requiring pro athletes to show proof of vaccination to play indoors. Nets who refuse to get vaccinated would still be able to play in other arenas, however, as the league has failed to implement a policy requiring its players to get vaccinated, after running into opposition from the players’ union.

Rolling Stone revealed that Irving, a vice president on the executive committee of the union, has been following and liking social media posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims the vaccine is part of a Satanic scheme to connect Black people to a master computer, and that the misinformation campaign has spread across multiple lockers rooms.

According to Rolling Stone‘s reporting, around 50 to 60 players have yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine as training camp approaches.

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