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Poll: More fans than not approve of Kyrie Irving’s position on vaccine

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In a new poll of sports fans, conducted by the respected Hart Research for ESPN, more approve of the way Kyrie Irving handled his decision on the COVID vaccine than not. That’s in contrast to how fans see the other two celebrity athletes in similar situations: NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and tennis star Novak Djokovic. In both cases, more fans disapproved than approved of how they handled their situations.

There was no overwhelming support or disapproval with the numbers relatively tight in all three instances. However, a clear majority of sports fans believe that pro athletes should be vaccinated and that athletes have a responsibility to publicly disclose whether they are vaccinated.

Here are the key findings re Irving...

“Overall, more respondents approve of how the Brooklyn Nets star has handled his vaccination status (45 percent) than disapprove (40 percent, with 15 percent saying they don’t know). Those numbers climb to 46 percent approval, 41 percent disapproval and 13 percent don’t know for self-described NBA fans.

Rodgers numbers on those same questions were mostly negative. For Rodgers, 49 percent of fans disapprove of how the Green Bay Packers quarterback has handled his vaccination status, with 40 percent approving and 11 percent not sure. Similarly, for Djokovic, 46% of all fans and 48% of tennis fans disapprove of how he handled his vaccination status in relation to the Australian Open, per the Hart poll.

Both Rodgers and Djokovic tried to hide their unvaccinated status. Irving did not. Also, because of the way the New York City mandate works, his status had to be disclosed.

Two-thirds of all sports fans believe that athletes should be vaccinated ... and their status should be public...

Overall, the survey found that two in three sports fans want to see athletes vaccinated (66 percent to 34 percent), 55 percent agree that athletes have a responsibility to publicly disclose whether they are vaccinated (36 percent disagree; 8 percent do not have a feeling one way or the other), and 59 percent think unvaccinated players are hurting their team because they are more likely to miss games (33 percent disagree; 8 percent don’t have a feeling one way or the other).

But 56 percent of those surveyed agree that unvaccinated players are standing up for their own rights by choosing not to get vaccinated (36 percent disagree; 8 percent are undecided).

The study was conducted for ESPN by Hart Research during January 16-18 and surveyed 1,002 adults 18 and over in a nationally representative online survey.