Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is now authorized to attend Nets home games after New York City's public sector vaccine mandate was lifted last week. However, the unvaccinated NBA star still cannot play in Nets home games because of the city's private sector vaccine mandate that requires individuals to get vaccinated in order to show up to work for a New York City-based business.
Under the relaxed rule, unvaccinated individuals may now go inside bars, gyms and large venues such as sporting arenas. The plan to ease the vaccine requirement was announced in late February and took effect on March 7.
Irving's appearance at the Barclays Center on Sunday was not as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, but rather, as a fan sitting in a courtside seat.
This, just hours after New York City mayor Eric Adams said that Irving still must receive his COVID vaccine if he wishes to play in Nets home games.
"Kyrie can play tomorrow. Get vaccinated," he said at a news conference.
Irving also was in attendance at the Barclays Center on Saturday as his college team, Duke University, fell to Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament title game.
When Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash was asked if he had received an explanation for why Irving cannot play, he replied, "No."
And Irving's former teammate, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, slammed New York City's vaccine policy, saying it "makes absolutely zero sense."
FACTS FACTS FACTS!! It literally makes ABSOLUTELY ZERO SENSE!!! They say if common sense was common then we’d all have it. Ain’t that the truth. ???????????????????????????? #FreeKyrie https://t.co/EhAcjuMrsL— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 13, 2022
Adams said in an interview last month after he announced that the city's public sector vaccine mandate would be lifted that allowing Irving to play would "send the wrong message."
"It would send the wrong message just to have an exception for one player when we're telling a countless number of New York City employees, 'If you don't follow the rules, you won't be able to be employed,'" Adams said in a Feb. 28 appearance on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
As has been the case all season, unvaccinated athletes playing for visiting teams are allowed to play in New York City.
Last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said it "doesn't make sense" that visiting players who are unvaccinated can play in the Barclays Center but home players cannot.
Adams acknowledged during the CNBC interview that this policy on unvaccinated home players vs. away players "makes no sense" but explained that he must "follow the rules" in order to avoid "sending the wrong message to everyday employees." The policy was put in place during former mayor Bill de Blasio's administration.
"Businesses have their vaccine mandate," he said. "City employees have their vaccine mandates. I have to follow the rules. And trust me, I want Kyrie on the court. We are here right now opening our city because of vaccine mandates. We can't close down again."