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Mayor-Elect Adams on vaccine mandate: ‘New York City is not going to change their rule’

New York Yankees v. New York Mets Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

If Nets fans — or Kyrie Irving — thought the city’s mayor-elect was going to change New York’s vaccine mandate and let Irving play again, Eric Adams squelched that hope Friday night.

In talking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, a big NBA fan, about a range of issues, Adams noted that while he’s a fan of the Nets and thinks they’ll need Irving if they are to win it all, don’t count on a change in the city’s mandate to facilitate that turn of events.

“The NBA says it’s the rule in New York City and they’re simply obeying what New York City has ruled, and New York City is not going to change their rule,” said Adams, who is current Brooklyn Borough President and a self-professed Nets fan. “And again, it’s up to the NBA and Kyrie Irving to a full understanding on how to keep him on the Nets and continue to look at all of our athletes that are coming here. And again I think the NBA and Kyrie will come to a conclusion on this work something out.”

Adams did not specify how the NBA and Irving could “work something out,” but Irving could simply get vaccinated or the NBA could get the NBPA, the players union, to agree to a mandate. There are about a dozen NBA players — out of 450 — still unvaccinated. The union has thus far resisted the league’s entreaties for a mandate.

Post-game, Steve Nash was asked for his reaction to Adams remarks. “My reaction is no surprise, I didn’t expect the mayor to change the mandate.” On Thursday, Nash had been asked about a mandate change and said only that the team would “welcome” Irving back if that happened.

Irving hasn’t played this season. Once he said he wouldn’t get vaccinated as a protest against mandates, that eliminated him from playing, practicing or participating in team activities in the city. The Nets initially considered playing him only on the road. Eventually, Sean Marks and Joe Tsai decided that would be too “disruptive” and informed Irving that unless he got vaccinated, he was banned from the team.

Adams, asked if he thought Irving should get vaccinated, said that was the player’s choice.

“That is his determination,” Adams said. “I don’t want to dictate for him, it’s his body, he has to make that determination on what he wants to do.

Adams also once again said he’s optimistic about an Irving return to the court.

“Let me tell you something, I’m a Nets fan, Brooklyn Nets, and I love Kyrie. I think he’s a piece we need for the championship,” Adams said. “This is something that the NBA has made an agreement if they’re going to perform in the city this is an agreement they made.

“I believe that it’s up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to an understanding of how they’re going to get through this. And I believe they can come to a resolution.”

Here’s the full interview. The Q. and A. about Irving comes at 2:53 in...

Before the election, Adams had expressed similar optimism. leading many fans to think that once in office, the new mayor would modify or end the mandate. But with Friday’s statement, he seemed to dash those hopes ... unless it was based on scientific evidence that the pandemic was easing across the city. Indeed, there is a slowing of infections and an increase in vaccinations. But as Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor, said two days ago about the mandate during a Barclays Center event, there’s no “magic number” that will automatically trigger a change. Instead, the city and state will rely on a consensus among health officials.

As for the Nets, in an interview with NetsDaily on October 29, Tsai said he still had optimism and patience about an Irving return.

“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.”

Meanwhile, the city’s vaccine program has quietly become the lead sponsor of Nets games on the YES Network, using its commercials to dispel disinformation about the vaccine, rumor by rumor.