NYC to lift Vaccine mandate, but Kyrie Irving still barred from playing home games

Kyrie Irving
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving dribbles the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the first half at Footprint Center.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New York City’s vaccine mandate will come to an end in less than two weeks, but that still doesn’t mean Kyrie Irving can take the court.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the Key2NYC vaccine mandate would be lifted on March 7 as long as COVID numbers continue to trend in the right direction, but because of the city’s private sector mandate, Irving would still be barred from playing in the five boroughs. That mandate requires all employees of businesses based in New York City to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Adams made Sunday’s announcement in a series of tweets that came out just before 5 p.m.

“So long as our indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also remove the vaccination requirements for Key2NYC — meaning indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues,” Adams said in a tweet. “We’re taking this week to give business owners the time to adapt while we monitor the numbers to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York.”

The caveat for Irving was first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania shortly after Mayor Adams’ announcement and confirmed by the mayor’s press secretary Fabien Levy in a tweet. Sunday’s whirlwind of news is just the latest twist in the ongoing saga with Irving’s vaccination status.

The date of the mandate lifting comes in the middle of a Nets three-game road trip that begins in Boston and ends in Philadelphia. Irving’s first game at home would have taken place on March 13 against the New York Knicks if he was able to play following the end to Key2NYC.

Mayor Adams could still amend the private-sector mandate to allow Irving to play, but he has shown no indication that was coming.

The hope that Irving could play at home before the regular season had ended had been growing over the past few weeks. Mayor Adams appeared to be building toward lifting the mandate by comments made in recent weeks, but he had yet to announce any specific plans.

Irving had addressed Adams’ changing tone following the win on Saturday and told reporters that he had a newfound respect for NBA commissioner Adam Silver for standing up for the players when it came to the vaccine.

“I’m glad things are kind of settling down and there’s light at the end of the tunnel here,” Irving said. “Hopefully, I can get back on that home floor playing int eh Barclays and now we can finally have that conversation that you’ve been dying to have just about turning the page and moving forward beyond this.

“But like I said, I’m not the only one. I feel for everybody that’s either in my boat or a similar boat or have dealt with some type of trauma from this. And just wishing everybody well-wishes, always.”