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Kyrie Irving on IG: Doing ‘what’s best for me’ in refusal to get vaccine, expresses concerns on mandates

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A day after the Nets decided to keep Kyrie Irving away from the team until he can be a “full participant,” the Nets guard went on his personal Instagram Live account late Wednesday night to break his silence on the subject of his vaccination status and the reasons why he had not gotten a shot.

It was the first time Irving disclosed he has not been vaccinated. On Media Day, he declined to answer questions on the subject, declaring it a “personal decision.”

In an often rambling and repetitive 20-minute session that drew 100,000+ viewers at its peak, Irving said his opposition was not to the vaccine but to the mandates, requirements that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.

Here’s the full video...

Working with handwritten notes he displayed at the end of the session, Irving said he believed what he is doing is right. He said that his decision had nothing to do with the Nets or the NBA. In fact, he did not mention the team’s decision to ban him.

“I’m standing with all those that believe what is right. Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves. Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, it’s sad to see. People are losing jobs to mandates,” Irving said on Instagram Live.

“If you choose to get the vaccine, I support you. Do what’s best for you. I continue to pray for all those out there who have lost people to the pandemic to COVID.”

“It’s reality that in order to be in New York City. In order to be on the team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated and that was my choice. I would ask y’all just to respect my choice,” Irving said.

Irving said little that Shams Charania hadn’t already reported both on The Athletic and The Glue Guys podcast, based on conversations Charania had with those close to Irving. Moreover, he gave no indication that he might get the shot.

Instead, Irving devoted almost all of his time to explaining his justification for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 which has already killed 700,000 Americans and disabled an equal number.

Stating that the controversy over his vaccination status had nothing to do with the Nets or the NBA or the loss of money he’ll likely suffer, Irving said he thinks all individuals should be able to have the choice of whether or not they want to take the vaccine, his decision not to get it and voicing his displeasure for mandates.

Irving said he didn’t want to lose salary or the chance of competing for a championship with the Nets, but he’s doing “what’s best for me” by refusing to take the vaccine. He did not explain why not getting the vaccines, which billions have already taken worldwide, was “best” for him. He said he was not anti-vaccination.

“I am doing what’s best for me. I know the consequences here and if it means that I’m judged and demonized for that, that’s just what it is,” Irving said. “That’s the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate.”

The Nets guard — who can not play home games due to the city of New York’s vaccination mandate and will not be receiving half ($18 million) of his $35 million salary — said he believed there was some sort of promise of a vaccination exemption coming into the season.

“If you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you would have exemptions or you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine. This wasn’t an issue before the season started. This wasn’t something I foresaw coming where I prepare for and a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family,” Irving said. “I can into the season thinking that I was just going to be able to play ball.”

“It’s not about the money. It’s not always about the money,” Irving said. “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money?”

However, Irving did not provide details on the nature of the “promise” or who made it or when it was made, other than before the season. Irving and other unvaccinated players in New York and San Francisco were informed on September 1 that unless they were vaccinated or granted an exemption on religious or medical grounds, they would not be able to play, practice or participate in team activities. There is no evidence that Irving applied for either exemption. Andrew Wiggins did apply for a religious exemption which the NBA publicly rejected on September 25. Wiggins later agreed to be jabbed, leaving Irving as the only NBA player in either city to be affected by the local bans.

Irving also settled the rumors of a possible retirement, explaining he’s not giving up “this game for a vaccine mandate and staying unvaccinated” while mentioning it’s not about the money.

“Don’t believe that I’m retiring. Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated, don’t believe any of that s**t man,” Irving said, blaming the media for spreading the rumor. Both Nick Wright of FOX Sports and Marc Stein have reported there are those in the NBA who believe retirement could be an option.

“I’m not going and leaving this game like this. There’s still so much more work to do and there still so many other youths to inspire, because I know they want to be better than me,” Irving added.

“Once again, I’m going to repeat this. This is not about the Nets. This is not about the organization. It’s not about the NBA. It’s not about politics,” Irving said. “It’s not any one thing. It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”

Later, Irving doubled down on his media criticism.

“To continue to play with my name…without me speaking? These dudes are puppets!” Irving said, failing to point out that he refused to answer questions on his status from the New York Post, ESPN and AP, on Media Day. “One thing I’m not gonna tolerate is standing around watching people do things around me that are very questionable,”

Although prohibited from training with the Nets, Irving said he would stay in shape and looked forward to playing once again with his Nets teammates.

Among the 100,000 viewers was former Net and Knick Stephon Marbury who at one point that Mohammed Ali “would be proud of you.” Ali was an active supporter of vaccination campaigns.