A standoff between the Brooklyn Nets and one of its star players, Kyrie Irving, intensified this week when general manager Sean Marks said the point guard will not play any games or practice with the team until he is vaccinated against covid-19.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Marks said in a statement on Oct. 12. He said Irving cannot be a “full participant” on the team until he is vaccinated, and that Nets leadership won’t accept part-time availability—that is, the option to play on the road.
New York City has mandated that individuals be vaccinated for indoor activities including sporting events. The National Basketball Association announced last month that it would comply with these regulations, meaning that players for both the Knicks and the Nets must be vaccinated in order to play. (All Knicks players have since been vaccinated.)
While Irving has not said publicly that he isn’t vaccinated, Marks made clear at a news conference on Oct. 12 that this was the case.
Irving’s silence on vaccination speaks volumes
Irving is one of the most visible players in the NBA and has been involved with charity work throughout his career. At the beginning the coronavirus pandemic, he donated more than $500,000 to Feeding America and other organizations to help marginalized communities experiencing hunger.
But he’s also used his platform to spread misinformation, previously questioning whether the Earth is flat or round (he later apologized for this) and more recently liking social media posts suggesting there is a microchip in the covid-19 vaccine. While Irving has stayed mum about his own vaccination status, sources close to the player say he’s upset that some people are losing their jobs over mandates. One source told The Athletic he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless.”
Irving will still get paid for some Nets games he misses
While the NBA has said that players won’t be paid for home games they miss, Marks said Irving will still collect a salary for away games that he sits out.
Irving is expected to earn around $35 million this upcoming season and could miss out on over $16 million in wages if he doesn’t play any home games in New York.
What does Irving’s absence mean for the Nets?
For basketball fans, the fate of the Nets’ season is perhaps more top-of-mind than Irving’s net worth. The Nets are currently favored to win an NBA title next year, and their chance at success could be hampered if they have to play an entire season without their seven-time All Star.
Of course it’s still the preseason, and the Nets could always consider trading Irving. Fox Sports correspondent Nick Wright reported in September that Irving’s agents said he would retire if this were to happen, although the basketball star denied it. The point guard missed the team’s home preseason opener against the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 8 and has been listed as ineligible for an Oct. 14 game at the Barclays Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves.