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Nets Star Kyrie Irving Speaks Out on Decision Not to Receive COVID Vaccine: 'That Should Be a Human Right'

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving defended his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 despite pushback and a New York vaccine mandate that caused him to miss his team's home games for the majority of the season.


Irving told reporters after Friday's practice that he stood up for his beliefs and that the decision to remain unvaccinated was the right one for him.

"I can really say that I stood firm on what I believed in, what I wanted to do with my body," Irving said. "That should be not just an American right, that should be a human right. And when you stand for something like that, in a society that we’re in where we have a lot more followers than we do leaders, you’re going to be forced into being seen as a black sheep that people can attack and can clickbait your name and say these things that don’t really describe who you are."

He added, "So I can't address everybody, but as we move forward in time, I know that I made the right decision for me."

The NBA has not mandated its athletes to get vaccinated against the virus this season but because of a local mandate in New York City for most of the season banning unvaccinated people from showing up to work at New York City-based businesses, Irving was barred from playing home games. Irving was still authorized to play road games and unvaccinated players competing for visiting teams were still allowed to play in New York City.


But after Irving elected against receiving the vaccine prior to the start of the NBA season, the Nets had initially decided to not let Irving play at all since they did not want him to merely be a part-time player. The team later allowed him to play in road games after a COVID outbreak in December forced several Nets players to miss games. Irving made his season debut on Jan. 5.

In early March, New York City mayor Eric Adams relaxed restrictions to allow unvaccinated individuals to go inside bars, gyms and large venues such as sporting arenas. Because of this rule, Irving attended games at the Nets' home arena as a fan but could not compete in the facility as a player.

Later that month, after Adams changed the city's vaccine mandate to allow unvaccinated athletes and entertainers to perform in the city, Irving was able to play in home and road games.

When a reporter asked Irving Friday if he had something to prove after many within the Nets organization stood up for him, he said it is a "great feeling" knowing people stood by him.


"Man, that’s a good question," he said. "It's a great feeling when you know during uncomfortable times you can really lean in on different individuals. Some stood by me in public, some stood by me in private, and I’m OK with both. Some disagree with me in public, some disagree with me in private. It doesn’t bother me as much as it did in the beginning, because everything was just so new."

The Nets are entering the NBA playoffs as a seven-seed in the Eastern Conference and will face the second-seed Boston Celtics for game one of the first-round matchup on Sunday.

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