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Spain’s prime minister slams Kyrie Irving over vaccine conspiracy theories

In a session of the Cortes Generales, the Spanish parliament, Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s head of government, blasted Kyrie Irving over his reported dalliance with COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories.

“I have been a basketball fan for many years, and I follow the NBA basketball league a lot,” Sanchez, a member of Spain’s ruling Socialist Workers’ Party, told the parliament as translated. “Nowadays, there is a problem in the NBA itself. There are several players who have spoken out against vaccinations. There is an NBA star who says he does not want to be vaccinated because there is a conspiracy to vaccinate blacks and connect them with a computer that has a Satanic plan. This is verbatim.”

Although Sanchez did not name Irving, the reference was clear. Sanchez’s commentary was big news both on Spain’s sports and news sites...

The Nets, as expected, declined to comment.

Sanchez was apparently referencing a Matt Sullivan story in Rolling Stone earlier this week in which he wrote about Irving’s recent “likes” of social media posts from a particular “conspiracy theorist.”

Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.”

This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.

Sullivan did not provide additional information on the Instagram account. Irving, of course, declined to respond to any questions posed about his vaccine status and related issues at Media Day on Monday.

Sanchez brought up the Irving reference in an odd context. Neither the virus nor the vaccine were being discussed in parliament at the time. Rather it was during a back-and-forth over Spain’s international credibility in light of the recent arrest of a former government official. Sanchez used the Irving reference to criticize an opposition member, suggesting that she, like Irving, has no credibility.

“Where am I going with this? Well, honestly, Your Honor, and I tell you with all respect and affection, not even you believe what you are saying here today in the Cortes Generales “, he concluded.

Spain, which had been particularly hard hit by the virus in 2020, is now one of the world’s leaders in vaccination rate. As of Monday, more than 78 percent of Spain’s population is fully vaccinated and 80 percent have received at least one shot.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted out his support for those NBA players who remain unvaccinated...

Cruz, of course, has criticized the NBA and its top players for not publicly taking on the injustice in China the same way they’ve rallied together for social issues in the U.S., claiming their “woke” politics had hurt NBA attendance.

Finally, New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, author of the New York vaccination mandate, encouraged Irving to “take your shot.”

“I’m a fan of Kyrie. I would just appeal to him – get vaccinated,” he said. “Your fans want to see you. We all want you back. Your teammates want you back. Look, there are teams now that are 100% vaccinated. That’s a great example to everybody else.”

When asked if Irving was letting fans down, de Blasio declined to go there.

“It’s not time to say that yet. We have weeks and weeks before the season begins,” he said. “I think his fans are going to say to him, ‘C’mon, join us, help us, let’s keep everyone safe — keep your own family safe, keep your teammates safe, keep your community safe.”

New York City officials have been troubled about vaccine hesitancy among young Black males. The New York Times reported last month that “only 28 percent of Black New Yorkers ages 18 to 44 years are fully vaccinated.”