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Unvaccinated NBA Player Returns to Play for Away Games

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who did not get vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus, returned to practice this week, the Associated Press reported. Reportedly, Irving may return to playing on Jan. 5 in Indianapolis.


“Not going to lie,” Irving said to the AP. “It’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline. ... But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m grateful for that opportunity.”

In the AP’s report, it notes that Irving has been unable to play this season because he did not comply with local rules in New York to be vaccinated against coronavirus. The Nets decided this month to allow him to return for road games, “excluding ones in Toronto and San Francisco because of local policies in those cities.” 

Irving told the AP he “respected the Nets’ stance” on their COVID-19 protocols.

“I knew the consequences,” Irving continued. “I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of imagination coming into the season. I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason and now we’re here and I’m grateful for this.”

Irving’s coach, Steve Nash, told the AP on Wednesday that the plan all along has been for the Nets to “ease Irving back into the fold slowly because he hasn’t been able to train at the NBA level for several weeks.”

“He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” Nash added. It’s still a shifting landscape ... but seeing him in the flesh today, he looked as well as you could expect considering everything that’s happened in the last few weeks.”


Irving said in his interview with the AP that he “missed it” and that “this is where I’ve worked my entire life to be.” 

In September, as I covered, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, voiced his support for Irving and several other NBA athletes who came forward with hesitancy over getting the coronavirus vaccine.

“I stand with Kyrie Irving,” Cruz wrote in a tweet. 

Cruz said in an interview prior to his tweet that he believes in “individual freedom” for people to make a decision for themselves as to whether or not to take the vaccine. 

“[I] believe in individual freedom. I believe in individual responsibility. So I don’t think anyone should make you take the vaccine. I don’t think the government should, and I don’t think your employer should,” Cruz said in the interview. “I think you ought to have the choice to make your own medical decisions with your doctor. And I have faith in people that they can weigh the pros and cons and make a determination whether or not to take the vaccine.”

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