Kyrie Irving got an unwelcome birthday surprise on Wednesday, when Mayor Eric Adams suggested that the unvaccinated point guard may be barred from practicing at the Nets facility. A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office an hour later told Newsday’s Matthew Chayes that Irving was able to practice at HSS Training Center under their interpretation of the law.
Irving has been participating in team activities at the Nets’ practice facility in Sunset Park, which he was previously allowed to do since the facility was classified as a “private office building,” rather than a gym. Under the current private-sector mandate, the team facility is “akin to a private gym,” Chayes reported.
The confusion began Wednesday afternoon during an unrelated event.
“If Kyrie Irving is practicing — I’m not at the sports facility — the attorneys can tell us if he could practice or not, if it’s a violation or not,” Hizzoner said. “I’ll speak with my attorney to find out if it is or isn’t.”
That set off another panic as confusion has continued about the vaccine mandate and Irving.
A subsequent order from then-Mayor Bill de Blasio later expanded the vaccine mandate on Dec. 27 to include employees of office buildings — potentially meaning that Irving should be barred from entering the training facility.
“A covered entity shall not permit a patron, full- or part-time employee, intern, volunteer, or contractor to enter a covered premises without displaying proof of vaccination and identification bearing the same identifying information as the proof of vaccination,” the order reads.
The key distinction is whether the training facility is considered a workplace as defined by the order, or if specific aspects of the nature of a training facility means that unvaccinated players can enter.
Irving is allowed to enter Barclays Center, but only in his capacity as a fan, rather than as a paid-employee. He attended the team’s home game against the Knicks on March 15.
After the game, several players expressed frustration with the intricate series of rules and mandates that allowed the unvaccinated All Star to masklessly breath the same air as his teammates and fans, but could not take the court.
“I don’t get it,” said Kevin Durant. “I just feel like, at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority. But everybody’s looking for attention, and that’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now, some attention.”
Unvaccinated players from teams that play outside of the Big Apple are permitted to play games at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, adding even more frustration to the Nets predicament.
Now, as Adams and his administration look into whether Irving should be stopped from participating in team activities, the situation could potentially worsen, and add even more strain on the team’s playoff push.
The team is currently 38-34, which places them as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, where they would enter the NBA’s play-in tournament.
If the season were to end today, the Nets would be matched up in the first play-in game on the road against the Toronto Raptors — who play in the only other arena Irving is barred from playing in, due to Canadian rules mandating non-essential travelers across the border must be inoculated.