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Kyrie Irving says he was fighting for ‘freedom’ in his refusal to adhere to city vaccine mandates

NBA: Kyrie Irving returns home as Nets after removal of mandate Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

If you thought discussions of the city’s private sector (and municipal employee) mandates were at an end, think again.

In his post-game comments, Kyrie Irving spoke about the mandates that had prevented him from playing at home until Sunday night, saying he believed all vaccine mandates should be rescinded and contending that his fight for “freedom” should be everyone’s fight.

The language he used was reminiscent of that used by the anti-vaccine movement which often discusses its refusal to get vaccinated in the context of the terms, “freedom” and “liberty.”

“The point of this season for me was never to just take a stance. It was really to make sure that I’m standing on what I believe in, in freedom,” Irving said. “Freedom, I don’t think that’s a word that gets defined enough in our society, about the freedom to make choices with your life without someone telling you what the f–k to do and whether that carries over to nuances of our society that politicians control, the government controls, or things people who are in power — the powers that may be.

“I’m standing for freedom, so that’s in all facets of my life. There’s nobody that’s enslaving me. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do with my life, and that’s just the way I am, and if I get tarnished in terms of my image and people slandering my name continually because those aren’t things that I forget.”

The Nets guard also called some of the coverage of his and his family’s decision not to get vaccinated “unfair.” Irving called for an end to all vaccine mandates. He has previously cited the mandates as the main reason why he wouldn’t get jabbed.

“Tonight, my presence out there is bigger than a basketball game — represented a lot of individuals that are out there in a similar situation as me,” the Nets guard said.

Mayor Eric Adams seemed to flip-flop last week on changing the private sector mandate, going from saying the Nets, Mets and Yankees would “have to wait” till science permitted a change to exempting athletes and entertainers from the mandate two days later. In his press conference, the mayor noted improvements in the city’s COVID status and pointed out the change only effects a minimal number of individuals. He added that that sports and entertainment support tourism in New York.

The city and state continue to maintain many of its vaccine mandates while “peeling back” others. Officials have said — and offered proof — that the mandates have helped to get a large majority of city residents vaccinated and thus bring down deaths and severe cases of COVID-19 in the city. New York has suffered 40,000 deaths through last week — 9,700 in Brooklyn alone, one of the hardest hit counties in the country. The state’s death toll, including the city, is now over 67,000.

As Irving argued that mandates should end, at least one group of city unions — those representing firemen who lost their jobs — are citing what some have called the “Kyrie carve-out” to suggest dismissals be reversed.

Lt. James McCarthy, president of the FDNY-Fire Officers Association, told the Post that while he applauded the mayor’s move to lift the private sector mandate for pro athletes and performers, it was not enough.

“We insist that it be extended to the people that work in New York City for New York City,” McCarthy said. “When the stages went dark and the games ended two years ago, we still came to work.”

FDNY-Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said his union too is calling on the mayor to sit down with them.

“If you’re going to remove the vaccine mandate for certain people in the city, you need to remove it for everybody in the city,” Ansbro said.