When asked last week if he would be attending home games for the Brooklyn Nets, the team that employs him, Kyrie Irving told reporters to “please respect my privacy.” New York City policy requires that all Nets players receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to practice and play at home. Irving was supposedly going to accept the jab under pressure from his friend and teammate Kevin Durant, according to a Yahoo Sports report. So far, that effort appears to be going nowhere. After training camp in San Diego last week, the Nets held their first practice in Brooklyn on Tuesday, and Irving did not attend. Later that evening came an ominous dispatch from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst:
There had been previous optimism that Irving would get vaccinated and fulfill local governmental mandates allowing him to practice and play in New York this season, but that hope is waning, and Irving’s continued resistance to vaccination has the Nets preparing for the possibility that they’ll be without him for home practices and games for the foreseeable future, sources told ESPN.
Irving will miss out on payments of roughly $380,000 for every game he misses due to vaccine protocols, starting with Friday’s preseason home game against the Bucks, according to ESPN. Coach Steve Nash said the team would not consider moving their practices outside New York City to accommodate its point guard.
The league claimed last Thursday that 95 percent of its players had received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. While fellow holdout Andrew Wiggins begrudgingly caved and got his vaccine, Irving may well present a stubborner, richer, and more conspiratorially minded case, making for a somber game of chicken in Brooklyn. Most “Watch”-style blogs channel a spirit of happy schadenfreude, but there is no joy here. It sucks that he is a vice-president of the players union, and reportedly bringing his hang-ups to the bargaining table. It sucks that his stance might deter even a normal person from getting vaccinated. It sucks that Irving, who has done a lot of good in his time, is now trying his hand at something new.