Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, an NBA champion and seven-time All-Star, has become the most vocal of a minority of stars opposing the COVID-19 vaccine which is causing controversy in the sport.
The All-Star guard, who serves as vice-president of the players’ union that blocked the NBA’s effort to impose a vaccine mandate, has sparked backlash from health experts and basketball legends by refusing to get vaccinated.
It’s a stance that could cost Irving games and money, since New York City requires proof of vaccination to attend large indoor events. That rule would include players performing before fans at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The NBA confirmed that salaries will be withheld from players who do not play because their unvaccinated status does not allow them to do so under local protocols. That could cost Irving half his $34 million salary for Brooklyn’s home games alone.
It could also cost the Nets, the betting favourites to win the NBA title this year, a title.
Yet Irving, an NBA icon known for irreverent views, is not backing down. “Obviously I’m not able to be present there today,” Irving told reporters on Zoom during the Nets’ media day, which he was unable to attend due to vaccine rules. “But that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits in the future on my being able to join the team.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that Irving won’t get special treatment.