This can’t be what Kyrie Irving envisioned. His supporters were supposed to be voiceless.
Yet ahead of the Nets’ Sunday matchup against the Charlotte Hornets, a group of anti-covid vaccine mandate protesters marched through Brooklyn and attempted to force their way into Barclays Center in support of Irving. The Nets star has been temporarily banished from the team until he fulfills the city’s vaccine mandate.
Barclays security told The Daily News the protesters chanted ‘Let Kyrie Play!’ and tried to barge through the metal barricades into the arena’s front doors. One of the security members also said the protesters didn’t get very far.
“We don’t play that,” the security member told The News, adding that they “shut that s--- down” fast.
The arena later put out a statement on the situation that unfolded before the Nets first home game of the season: “Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protesters from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena. Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”
The protesters in support of Irving carried a various signs: Some attempted to debunk the science behind the vaccine, some were in opposition of the current Biden administration, some read “Let Kyrie Play” and one had a swastika on it.
The protesters varied in background — some carried a Pan-African flag — but were vocal in their stance against the city’s vaccine mandate. In August, mayor Bill de Blasio put into effect a mandate requiring all members attending or hosting indoor entertainment events to be vaccinated. For the Knicks and Nets, that meant their players had to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or could not play or practice at home.
The Nets later ruled Irving could not be a part-time player, either, effectively deciding Irving as a road act would provide more issues than not having him at all for the season. They have remained steadfast in that decision, as has the NBA.
“This is not a league issue,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a recent TV appearance, noting it’s a New York City policy that’s keeping Irving off the floor.
Now it’s become a Barclays Center issue. The arena was a meeting place for protester to gather in the wake of the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake shootings last year. Those demonstrations attracted hundreds. Now, it’s where those against the city’s vaccine mandate head to make their presence known, albeit on a much smaller scale — according to reports, Sunday’s demonstration involved just a few dozen people.
Irving did not explain his reasoning behind not getting vaccinated at the beginning of the season. Instead he repeatedly asked for privacy when asked questions regarding his vaccination status.
Some “close to Irving” then told The Athletic that Irving is not anti-vaccine, but that he’s upset people are losing jobs due to their vaccination status.
“Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” a source told The Athletic.
The protesters that showed up Sunday surely aren’t voiceless. In fact, they’re louder than Irving, who won’t be any closer to Barclays until either he gets vaccinated, or the city’s mandate changes.