Kyrie Irving made his point loud and clear on Monday afternoon after the Nets fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The seven-time all-star will not be getting the COVID vaccine no matter what.
In a tense exchange with reporters, Irving stood firm that, while he isn’t trying to sway anyone in any direction, he would not take the jab despite the injury keeping Kevin Durant off the court for the foreseeable future. Irving cannot play any home games because of the current vaccine mandate in New York City, which has limited his role to only playing on the road.
Government orders in Canada also prevent Irving from playing any games in Toronto.
“I’m asked questions all the time about what’s my status and I’m like Man, if you were in my position it would be easy for someone to say, ‘Well, why won’t you just get vaccinated?’ But you’re not and that’s just the reality of it. I’ve made my decision and I’m standing by it,” Irving said.
Irving’s vaccination status has been a lightning rod of controversy since the start of the season and his return has only added fuel to that. The Nets had originally opted not to allow Irving to play this year, but with COVID decimating the roster in December the team relented and allowed him to return on a part-time basis.
That decision garnered even greater attention this weekend after Durant went down leaving the Nets with just one star to play at home and Harden and Irving to play on the road. However, that doesn’t change how Irving views his decision not to get the vaccine.
Here's Kyrie Irving's exchange with a reporter who followed up about his vaccination status: pic.twitter.com/dz9N5P5F7Q
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) January 17, 2022
“That’s what I feel like ends up coming into a lot of this culture of basketball and sports and entertainment is you bring in the team and you bring in situations that we’re in and Kevin,” Irving said. “Kev’s gonna heal. Kev’s gonna be OK, and we’re gonna have to deal with that as his teammates, but in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision and that’s just what it is. It’s not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life that somehow it’s brought to my attention as being more important than what’s going on in the real world. It’s just not happening for me.”
The exchange continued as Irving was pressed again about his vaccination status.
“That’s what I’m saying,” Irving said. “You’re bringing my vaccination status into a basketball game, and I live my life, the majority of the time, when I’m away from this. So when I say I’m not getting vaccinated and I’m making a choice with my life, somehow it gets mixed into, ‘Well, what about the basketball?’ When it’s like no, bro. We live in a real world. This is great to be able to do this. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
“I love playing with my teammates. I love playing on the Nets, but I’ve already been away enough time to think about this, to process this, to be able to make my decision, stand strong, understand that people are gonna agree and some people are gonna disagree.”
Irving is hoping that the circumstances change and that he is able to play, not just for himself he said, but for others who have been impacted by the mandates. “It’s not just about me, that’s been my message the whole time,” he said.
Brooklyn will play its next three games on the road, which makes Irving eligible to be on the court. The Nets travel to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, which has its own vaccine mandate but it does not apply to visiting players.