Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status was yet again the topic of discussion after Brooklyn’s 114-107 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers and this time, the exchange was both longer and presented the clearest picture yet of his status.
He’s not getting vaccinated.
In response to questions about his status from The Post’s Brian Lewis and ESPN’s Nick Friedell, used terms like “I’ve made my decision already and I’m standing on it,” “I’m just staying rooted in my decision,” and “I’m not getting vaccinated and I’m making a choice“
It was easily the clearest the Nets superstar has been in his comments, even more so than in his Zoom call with reporters on Media Day or in social media postings. The questions were pointed and respectful and the exchange, while tense, evoked answers many fans have been waiting for. The exchange was also confined to whether the Nets new circumstances — the injury to Kevin Durant — would change his stance on vaccination. Irving made it crystal clear it would not.
Here’s the full exchange on the issue...
Specifically, Irving was asked about speculation that he would change his mind and get the shot(s) that would permit him to play home games. As they currently stand, New York City’s regulations ban him from playing at Barclays Center — or Madison Square Garden — and Canadian government law prohibits him from even traveling north of the border as an unvaccinated person. With the restrictions, Irving won’t be able to play even 20 games this season.
“I’m asked questions all the time about what’s my status? And I’m like, man, if you were in my position, it would be easy for someone to say, ‘Well, why don’t you just get vaccinated, but you’re not.’ And that’s just the reality of it. And I’ve made my decision already and I’m standing on it.”
Irving said, as he had on Media Day, that he supports each individual’s decision in the global pandemic. His goal, in his words, is to be “a beacon of hope and light” for all.
“My message has always been, I respect what everyone else is doing with their bodies. I respect what everyone else is doing in terms of their livelihoods. And I’m here to support. But what’s going on with me is, I’m taking it one day at a time, and that’s it.
“Nothing is guaranteed in this in this world right now. So people are getting sick left and right. And for me, I’m just trying to be just a person that’s just being a beacon of hope and light, and just trying to shed as much as I can on the situation without talking myself into more BS and what’s going on in this political world that we’re in right now.”
Irving made it clear that Durant’s injury will not play any role in his refusal to be vaccinated. Irving, adding that he feels “protected” by the Nets organization and feels “protected: after speaking with doctors about being unvaccinated to back his decision. Irving did test positive for the virus shortly after the Nets ownership and management agreed to let him play part-time after initially banishing him from the team until he got vaxxed.
“I respect everyone else’s decision. I’m not going to ever try to convince anyone of anything or any of that I just, I’m standing rooted (in) what I believe in, and though we’re dealing with this right now with Kev(in Durant), I just know that I’m protected by the organization and protected on my team, as I’m protected by all the doctors I’ve talked to and I’m just staying rooted.”
Irving did not detail which doctors he had spoken with. When asked whether there is anything that would sway his decision to get vaccinated, Irving made it clear that his decision to remain unvaccinated will not be impacted by the game of basketball. Irving added that he’s had plenty of time to think about vaccination and he’ll “stand strong” on it.
“You’re bringing my vaccination status into a basketball game, and I live my life the majority of the time away from this. So when I say I’m not getting vaccinated and I’m making a choice for my life, somehow it gets mixed into ‘what about basketball?’ Like no.
“We live in a real world. It’s great to be able to do this and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I love being with my teammates. I love playing on the Nets but I’ve already been away enough time to think about this, process it, and be able to make this decision, stand strong and understand that people are going to agree and some people are going to disagree.”
Irving said the decision to remain unvaccinated comes down to what is best for himself and his family — and he’s aware that this decision may come at the expense of his legacy. He also said he would not bring “bring science into the basketball game,” in essence declining to discuss what role science played in his decision. A report by Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports quoted his “circle” as saying he has been concerned by the long-term effects of the vaccine.
“I’m not bringing science into the basketball game. You know what I mean? Everyone’s feeling what’s going on in the real world. I’m walking around as an unvaccinated person sort of saying, I’ve already been separated into another group of community. I’m just saying to everybody, I’m human, I have decisions to make, I have a family to take care of. There are things that are just as important to me as being great at the game of basketball and leaving a legacy.”
Prior to Media Day at the end of September, Irving said that he and his “people” are“ protected” by God. (However, his father, Drederick, has been seen at Barclays Center, most recently for this weekend’s game vs. the Pelicans. To enter Barclays, a guest must prove he’s been vaccinated.)
Now that Irving has made it clear that he’ll remain unvaccinated moving forward, the only hope of the Nets guard becoming a full-time player again is if the city’s vaccination mandate gets changed. There’s been some speculation that Mayor Eric Adams, a Nets fan, might modify the regulations, but with increased fears of new variants, that seems unlikely. The 29-year-old, who contended it’s not solely about him, said he’s “praying” the mandate gets overturned.
“The circumstances that are at hand, I’m praying that they get changed and we’re able to do things differently. That’s not just for me. That’s for all those that are dealing with being unvaccinated and getting fired from work on a day-to-day basis. It’s not just about me. That’s been my message this whole time. I’m not just a basketball player. It’s not just about the game.”
Although some have suggested that the exchange might limit such questions in the future, it is more likely to generate other questions and commentaries, including from critics. Among those who have criticized Irving’s position — citing a variety of reasons — are Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley as well as journalists Malika Andrews and Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports and Jemele Hill of The Atlantic and President Biden’s former advisor on COVID, Andy Slavitt. Among his supporters have been Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and another Hall of Famer, John Stockton and, of course, his Nets teammates.
Before Irving spoke, Steve Nash was asked if he thought the injury to Durant would affect Irving’s vaccination stance.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what he thinks about the shot, really.”
- Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving won’t reconsider COVID-19 vaccine stance in wake of Kevin Durant injury: ‘I stay rooted in my decision’ - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Kyrie Irving won’t change mind about vaccine despite Nets’ loss without KD - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kyrie Irving makes it clear: He’s not getting vaccinated - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving makes it clear he still has no intention of getting vaccinated - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets’ star Irving steadfast on vaccine despite Durant injury - Tom Withers - AP