On Thursday, at his press conference at CitiField, Mayor Eric Adams said regarding changes in the private sector mandate, “I was not lobbied on this issue.”
However, reporters starting with Politico had the receipts ... from the city’s own lobbying office, no less. Back in February, the Nets agreed to pay Corey Johnson, the former president of the City Council, $18,000 a month, plus expenses, to lobby the city on “health care policy,” specifically the mayor’s executive order on the mandate.
So on Friday, Adams had to do an about-face. He admitted that he was indeed lobbied by Johnson, a former City Council Speaker who was also part of his transition team, on behalf of the Nets before he changed the private sector mandate, permitting Kyrie Irving to play at home for the first time.
“Corey reached out, clearly stated he was speaking on behalf of the Nets when he reached out,” Adams said. “I received calls from people who were against, and for. That happens in the city.”
In his comments Friday, Adams denied the lobbying had an effect.
“I said: Corey, like any other person, I’m going based what my doctors are stating,” he said.
Buried in the public records were a few tidbits on the extent of the Nets effort.
- The contract runs for 18 months through July 2023.
- Johnson “targeted” three city officials as part of his lobbying efforts: the Mayor; his counselor and long time confidant, Frank Carone, and Brendan McGuire, his chief legal advisor.
- Johnson reported to Jeff Gewirtz, the Nets and Barclays Center Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel who’s been the team’s lead on getting the mandate changed.
- Officially, the contract was let by B-Cubed, the Joe Tsai company that’s at the top of the corporate pyramid that controls Barclays Center.
- The agreement between the Nets and Johnson was finalized on February 8, two days after Irving had said he was “keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen in the next few days or the next week.”
Of course, the real “lobbying” came from the city’s two MLB teams, the Mets and Yankees.
As the New York Times reported Friday...
The Yankees president, Randy Levine, personally reached out to the mayor’s team and encouraged officials to consider that baseball is played outdoors where Covid transmission rates are lower than indoors.
Steven A. Cohen, the hedge fund manager and Mets owner who last year gave $1.5 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Adams’s mayoral campaign, has been paying $10,000 a month to a lobbying firm, Moonshot Strategies, to push state officials and City Hall on several issues, including Covid protocols.
It was noteworthy that while Mets and Yankees reps were on hand for Thursday’s announcement, the Nets were noticeably absent even though they were the immediate beneficiary of the mayor’s action. The Nets have not officially commented on the change, although the NBA and NBPA issued a joint announcement commending the action Thursday.
Even Kevin Durant admitted things began to move in earnest when the Yankees and Mets, both with significant numbers of unvaxxed players, joined the fray.
“I’m not naïve to the fact that the Mets and Yankees have a lot of power in our City. I’m sure when they all helped and had conversations, they were able to push it over the top.”
- Adams admits ex-Council Speaker Corey Johnson lobbied for Nets on athlete vaccine exemption - Bernadette Hogan, Nolan Hicks and Bruce Golding - New York Post
- Inside New York City’s Decision to End Vaccine Mandate for Pro Athletes - Jeffery C. Mays & Dana Rubinstein - New York Times
- Kevin Durant on vaccine mandate change: Mets, Yankees have power - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Kevin Durant on NYC lifting vaccine mandate: ‘Mets and Yankees have a lot of power in our city’ - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant: Brooklyn Nets relieved to have vaccine mandate behind them as Kyrie Irving readies for home debut - Nick Friedell - ESPN