Kyrie Irving will not be practicing or playing any games — home or road — with the Nets to start the season.
Irving may not be happy with that, but he believes he is fighting a bigger fight and speaking up for people often ignored, which is why he has not changed his stance. That according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who explained Irving’s stance this way:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of Irving’s decision have told The Athletic that Irving is not anti-vaccine and that his stance is that he is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates. It’s a stance that Irving has explained to close teammates. To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset. It is a decision that he believes he is capable to make given his current life dynamics. “Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” one source said.
Irving has always been willing to take a stance on issues and is very generous when he believes he is doing the right thing. Meaning he is unlikely to change his mind in the short term.
Irving may believe he is in the right, but, as has happened before, his logic here is hard to follow.
Sometimes societies (often through governments) must ask for a sacrifice for the greater good, which is what getting vaccinated is about (as ESPN’s Malika Andrews put so well recently). It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others around you. Where those requests for sacrifice have fallen short, mandates have been put in to push people to do what they should have done as good and caring citizens.
Vaccine mandates are in place with some cities — New York, San Francisco, and starting next month Los Angeles — and with some corporations to protect people, particularly the most vulnerable among us. The vaccine remains the best and most proven way to reduce coronavirus transmission — vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus on to others. That helps the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the vulnerable among us who can’t get the vaccine.
Some people — as Irving has done — have chosen not to get the vaccine over their employment or ability to be in some indoor public spaces in certain cities. He and everyone can make that choice — but that choice comes with consequences. That choice may cost Irving up to $16 million this season (he will not be paid for home games, although the players’ union may fight that), but he can afford it.
It’s also very hard to say the unvaccinated and those impacted by mandates are voiceless — their voices have been all over both social and traditional media.
Irving made his choice, and the Nets — clearly with a nod of assent from Kevin Durant and James Harden — have made theirs, saying Irving cannot be around the team until he is fully eligible (read: vaccinated).
All of this has led to a lot of trade speculation around Irving, but as Charania notes, it’s unclear if Irving would play for another franchise (he came to Brooklyn with Durant in a package deal). The 76ers have no interest in a Ben Simmons for Irving swap of problems, something Sam Amick of The Athletic reiterated today. As for other teams, they are hesitant to give up much because Irving can opt out and become a free agent next summer. A trade, at least in the short term, is highly unlikely.
And so Irving sits, trying to make his point.
While the Nets have moved on.