The Nets have been patiently waiting for Mayor Eric Adams and the City of New York to flip their vaccination mandates in order to get Kyrie Irving back playing on the Barclays Center hardwood.
Although Adams has ended or modified other vaccination mandates, the private business mandate remains active, barring any unvaccinated employee from a city workplace. That’s the mandate keeping Brooklyn’s superstar guard off the home floor, In short, the current situation allows him, along with unvaccinated fans, in the building but not permitting him to play.
After the Nets’ 110-107 victory over the Knicks Sunday afternoon, which Irving watched from courtside, Durant called out Mayor Adams to get things right. The superstar called the continued mandate “ridiculous” and “stupid,” adding a personal comment. KD said he believes that one of the main reasons for Adams to keep this mandate is the mayor to “flex their authority.”
“It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it at all. I don’t get it. It just feel like, at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or point to flex their authority. Everybody out here is looking for attention. That’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now; some attention. He’ll figure it out soon. He better,” Durant said.
“It didn’t make any sense. There are unvaxxed people in this building already. We got a guy who can come into the building. Are they fearing our safety? I don’t get it. We’re all confused. Pretty much everyone in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season, people didn’t understand what was going on but now, it just looks stupid. Hopefully Eric, you got to figure this out.”
For the first time this season, Irving was in the Barclays Center building to watch his teammates play.
On Saturday night, Irving was also in attendance watching Duke lose to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship tilt. Moreover, Steve Nash said Irving joined the team at halftime in the locker room.
After Durant’s 53-point game concluded, he celebrated his superstar teammate’s 53-point game ... and Nets win.
Irving was first spotted In the second quarter, when he Irving walked to his courtside seat with his wife and sister, resulting in the Barclays Center crowd cheering and chanting “Free Kyrie,” shining a bright light on the scene. On the way to his seat, Irving greeted Joe Tsai, who was seated on the same courtside.
In the building .. pic.twitter.com/X5mDudshyb— sarah kustok (@sarahkustok) March 13, 2022
The guard regularly got out of his seat to root for his teammates during the contest. (Irving’s father has been a regular in those seats, an indication that he’s in compliance with city regs.)
Durant noticed Irving’s entrance which was greeted by an ovation from the Nets fans in attendance.
“I was at the free-throw line when he walked in. Me and Drummond looked at each other and was like, ‘yo, this is unreal.’ I’ve never seen anything like this before. We just smiled,” Durant said. “We can say that about a lot of situations over these last two or three years with things didn’t make any sense, especially with COVID being involved. Hopefully, it gets figured out. Like I said, ‘Eric you got to figure something out, man, because it’s looking crazy, especially on national TV’ and he [Irving] can come to the game but not play? Like c’mon man. Hey, yo Eric.”
Kyrie Irving purchased courtside seats to support his teammates today at home.— ESPN (@espn) March 13, 2022
(h/t @malika_andrews) pic.twitter.com/2KspS3FSqT
Drummond, who had expressed his displeasure at the NYC private sector mandate on social media last week, spoke about Irving attending the game. The big man said it was “dope” seeing him at Barclays Center while hinting at his disagreement with the ruling.
“That was dope to see him come to the game and sit courtside. There’s a word I want to use but I got to keep it to myself,” Drummond said with a smile. “It was really cool for him to come and watch the game and support the team.”
Bruce Brown explained how he knew before the game Irving would be eligible to come to the arena to support his teammates, but didn’t know if he would actually attend the game. The Nets swiss-army knife said he found out he was in the building when the crowd began its ovation. Like many of his teammates, he’s confused by the City of New York’s ruling
“That was crazy. I heard some noise going on. I turned around and saw Kai. I just don't understand the ruling on him being in the area and not being able to play,” said Brown who’s pro-vaccine and has appeared in both a commercial for vaccine manufacturer Pfizer and a Nets PSA. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s good to see him back at Barclays.”
In a response to a heckler who asked Mayor Adams — a Nets fan — to let Irving play at Barclays Center, the former Brooklyn borough president responded with a simple answer ... a solution Irving won’t abide by.
“You’re right son. You’re right. Thank you. Listen, you’re right. Kyrie can play tomorrow: Get vaccinated,” said a chucking Adams in the comment Sunday morning. “Go ahead. I love New York and hecklers. I come out of City Hall and people are outside protesting. I said ‘Wow, it’s great to be in New York.’”
Mayor Eric Adams’ response to a heckling fan asking about Kyrie Irving playing at Barclays Center.— Chris Milholen (@CMilholenSB) March 13, 2022
“Listen, you’re right. Kyrie can play tomorrow. Get vaccinated.”pic.twitter.com/10W1k1GMaK
Before the game, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Nets are in contact with City Hall on the remaining hurdle Irving has to clear before he can play.
“The signals privately from the Mayor’s Office has led many to be optimistic that — at some point — Kyrie Irving could be a full time player but it hasn’t happened,” said Woj. “And last thing, this is a Nets team if you look at the standings where right now they are matched up in the play-in with Toronto and if they have to go on the road to Toronto, Kyrie Irving would not be able to play in that play-in tournament.”
Looking ahead, Irving is only eligible to play in four of the remaining 14 regular-season games before the postseason rolls around in April.
While Durant and Irving’s other teammates are now taking their impatience public, there seems little political value in Adams reversing the private business mandate. He and his spokeman have repeatedly said there’s no plan to change it. Also, any action that could be seen as a special carve-out for Irving would no doubt be heavily criticized by the city’s powerful municipal workers unions. The city fired 1,430 city employees last month under the city’s public employee mandate, with more likely to be let go once the city hears applications for exemptions.
- Durant criticizes NYC mayor on mandate after Irving attends - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving sits courtside, but still can’t play at Barclays Center - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant scores 53 points, tells New York City mayor to ‘figure out’ vaccine policy - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Kevin Durant calls on NYC mayor to allow Kyrie Irving to play - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Kevin Durant says Mayor Adams is seeking attention by not lifting NYC private-sector COVID-19 vaccine mandate - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant questions NYC Mayor and mandate: ‘Eric, you got to figure this out’ - Phillip Martinez - SNY