In an interview with NetsDaily Friday morning in New York, Joe Tsai said that he has “all the patience” in waiting for a resolution of the controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated. He also revealed that he’s had “multiple conversations” with Irving about the “facts” surrounding the COVID-19 shot but that he really doesn’t understand his star shooting guard’s reluctance to get at least one jab which would get him back at Barclays Center.
Tsai would not criticize Irving’s decision, being careful to show “respect” for it, but also pointing out that in a team sport, permitting him to play only road games would be “disruptive.”
“I have all the patience!” said the Nets owner when asked what was his level of patience. “He’s on the team right? He’s on the roster. He’s just not on the court. You’re in an environment where this is a team sport You have to have patience with all sorts of things. He’s an elite player. We all know that. If he gets vaccinated, we’ll welcome him back on the team, but if he’s not vaccinated, we’ve made a decision that it would be too disruptive for him to come in and out of games, play only away games. So that was never going to fly. It’s that simple.”
Asked specifically if there was anything new with Irving’s status, Tsai responded, “nothing to update.”
Tsai said he had indeed made a personal entreaty to Irving, in fact more than one.
“It was more of a process of having multiple conversations with him about our perspective on the vaccine,” said Tsai. “What I told him was the facts that we know about the vaccine. So what I tried to present to Kyrie — I wasn’t trying to evangelize one thing or another.
“What I tried to do is just present him with the facts. What I told him was, No. 1, the vaccine is safe and No. 2, the vaccine is effective against serious illness. So if you’re vaccinated, the overwhelming probability is that you’re not going to get sick, terribly sick. But if you’re unvaccinated and you get COVID, you could end up in the hospital and the ICU and you could possibly die.”
Tsai said he also noted to Irving that the vaccine’s success has permitted cities to open up and fans to enjoy games in Brooklyn.
“I also told him that hundreds of millions of people have taken the vaccine and that’s enabled cities everywhere to open up and enabled people to come into Barclays Center. So obviously, it’s working. So I simply presented him with the facts.”
Tsai did not reveal the other side of what was a private conversation with Irving.
Tsai said he did not try to convince Irving to take the shot as a community service, to help push others in communities large and small to get vaccinated. Irving has faced criticism that by not getting the vaccine, he was abandoning those communities most disproportionately affected by the virus, including the African-American community. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been among those criticizing Irving.
“I didn’t because then it becomes what you represent and what you what you believe, what your belief is, and I didn’t want to impose my views,” said Tsai “In order to have that conversation, you need to first believe that getting vaccinated is a good thing. You have to personally decide and then you can set yourself up as an example for the young African-American community. But that premise wasn’t there with Kyrie, so I did not have that conversation.”
Tsai did say that in general, he told the Nets star that he believed vaccinations represent a social good, “a matter of social responsibility.”
“I have generally stated to him that my belief is actually a matter of social responsibility because you’re not only doing it for yourself to prevent yourself from being seriously ill, but you’re also doing it for other people to protect others,” he noted.
Tsai, who has been vaccinated four times — twice with China’s Sinovac and twice with Pfizer — also explained what he meant when he said that he “respected” Irving’s decision.
“What I respected was the choice he made after investigated all the pro’s and con’s and the facts, people are entitled to their own opinion and choice. So that’s something I respect. But, you know, do I understand why he’s not doing it? Not really.”
That really shouldn’t surprise anyone, he added.
“But when you present people with the same set of facts and circumstances, they sometimes they come up with different outcomes, different opinions. And also, I am sure he’s not only getting information from me. He’s getting information from friends, family, websites, whatever he reads. I have no visibility into that.”
Tsai said he didn’t think that the latest controversy surrounding Irving — he’s become, whether his likes it or not, the face of the anti-vaccine movement — is affecting the team brand, its “likeability.”
“I don’t think that affects the Nets brand because there are so many good things going on with the Nets. We have a great team. We have players other than Kyrie,” he said, arguing that Brooklyn as a team and organization is doing what’s right for the community. “And I think we’re building a fan base in Brooklyn that’s very community-oriented, local.
So, can the Nets win without Irving? Tsai was asked.
“Yeah, we did,” Tsai joked, pointing to the Nets two wins so far this season. “We’ve won a couple of games without him.”
Turning serious the Nets owner said, “Look anytime you lose an elite player, you wish he was coming back. The way I look at it is we have Kevin Durant, we have James Harden, we have Joe Harris.”
He then rattled off the names of most of the players on the Nets roster.
“This is an amazing team! So I’m very confident that we’re going to be a contending team with this roster that we have.” with or without Irving.
- Brooklyn Nets owner says choice to not have Kyrie Irving play is a team decision, ‘not a decision about him’ - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN
- Joe Tsai: Nets’ Kyrie Irving decision is about team, not him - Peter Botte - New York Post
- Nets owner Joseph Tsai backs up ‘team decision’ on Kyrie Irving - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets owner Joe Tsai hopes Kyrie Irving gets vaccinated, respects his beliefs - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets owner Joe Tsai hasn’t spoken to Kyrie Irving, still hopes he’s part of team long-term - Colin Martin - SNY