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Shams: Kyrie Irving not anti-vaccine, just wants to make a point

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

As of Tuesday night, Kyrie Irving has not responded to the Nets announcement that he’s banned from play and practice unless he is eligible to play in all the team’s games, but it appears that he or his representatives have provided Shams Charania his position.

In an article published early Tuesday evening that claims to “clarify” Irving’s position, Charania writes that Irving is not anti-vaccine but merely wants to make a point about “control.” a “grander fight” than his basketball exploits.

Here’s the key paragraph from Charania...

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of Irving’s decision have told The Athletic that Irving is not anti-vaccine and that his stance is that he is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates. It’s a stance that Irving has explained to close teammates. To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset. It is a decision that he believes he is capable to make given his current life dynamics. “Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” one source said.

Indeed, Charania says that Irving has decided to use his “platform” as a well-known and popular NBA player to “stand up for his stance (sic).”

He’s a seven-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA member and former Rookie of the Year who now stands to lose over $200 million by deciding to use his platform to stand up for his stance of each and every person being able to decide for themselves on whether they should take the vaccine without impacts on job statuses. However, the fact of the matter is there are consequences for being unvaccinated in some industries and municipalities. Just as Irving wants to stick with his principle belief on the matter, policies and requirements are subject to local and federal governments.

Indeed, vaccine mandates have dramatically increased the number of those vaccinated in enterprises — both public and private. United Airlines, for example, now has 99 percent of its employees fully vaccinated following the institution of a mandate. It also fired hundreds of workers for refusing to accept vaccination. Last month, President Biden mandated that all businesses with 100 or more workers require their staff to be vaccinated or face weekly testing. That spurred new corporate vaccination policies.

There are of course no vaccine mandates for NBA players although more than 95 percent have now been jabbed, a much higher percentage than in the general population.

But the report from Shams does not explain why Irving has not publicly discussed the issue, used his “platform” to rally those who’ve been harmed by such mandates as well as his fellow NBA players and fans; why he’s remained quiet in general about his unvaccinated status, calling it a “personal decision.”

Of course, while Irving has reportedly adopted this position — without saying anything — evidence mounts that the vaccine protects against severe cases of the disease as well as death. As Charania notes in another paragraph,

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), American Medical Association (AMA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state clearly that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at helping protect against severe disease and death, including from variants of the virus, while also being safe. In fact, multiple studies showed that 99 percent of people who are in intensive care units in hospitals are unvaccinated.

Moreover, deaths among the unvaccinated rose dramatically over the last several months because of the prevalence of the more highly transmissable delta variant, leveling off only in recent weeks.

And although Charania on several occasions states in his article that Irving is not “anti-vaccine” or “anti-science,” the Nets guard’s last tweet, posted Saturday seems to suggest that he believes he doesn’t need it.

Charania also discloses that the Nets decision was made in part to protect other employees who unlike Irving have been vaccinated.

The organization made the decision also based on the fact that Irving is the only member of their Tier 1 personnel (players, coaches, top front office officials) not to be vaccinated, thus prioritizing safety of a fully-vaccinated group.

Finally, Charania discussed the possibility that the Nets could be interested in trading Irving.

Rival teams believe the Nets would be open to a significant trade offer for Irving, but his openness to playing for other franchises is unclear. Irving will be fully eligible in all markets except New York City and San Francisco. Brooklyn is on a championship chase, wanting the commitment of every player on their roster, now dealing with the cloud of uncertainty regarding a member of its big three.

Meanwhile, the NBPA, the players’ union, has yet to respond publicly to the Nets announcement.