The New York Mets and New York Yankees could be facing a similar dilemma that Kyrie Irving and the Nets have faced this season thanks to ongoing mandates from New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ office. But could this latest twist end up helping Irving and the Nets in the end?
Since the Nets welcomed Irving back in the fold, he has faced a barrage of questions over his vaccination status and his level of optimism that New York City mandates would change. Even after Key2NYC was dropped earlier this month, Irving was still barred from the court because of the city’s private-sector mandate.
While the questions surrounding the logic behind Irving not being able to play have grown, hitting a fever pitch on Sunday as he sat courtside for Brooklyn’s game against the New York Knicks, Mayor Adams has stood firm that he would not make a change for one person.
However, the prospect of some of New York sports’ biggest stars and two of the city’s most prominent sports teams being impacted is very real. Unlike the Nets, New York Rangers and New York Islanders, it’s unknown who exactly on the Mets and Yankees is still unvaccinated.
Aaron Boone told reporters recently that they “still have a few guys at least who are not vaccinated.” The Mets were one of six teams that didn’t reach the 85% vaccination threshold last season.
Barring any changes of heart, the Mets and Yankees will be joining Irving and the Nets in their hopes to see the city’s vaccine mandates change. While the Nets are a significant player in the New York sports scene, the Mets and the Yankees are top dogs in a market that is baseball crazy all year round.
What that means is that any impact on either teams’ season comes with a very vocal backlash around the city. That’s not to say that Mayor Adams will bow to public pressure just because a few Mets and Yankees fans are upset, but it would add another layer to a very fluid situation.
Adams’ office has faced growing criticism over the Kyrie Irving situation, with LeBron James voicing his support on Twitter and Kevin Durant’s strong words for the mayor on Sunday. Durant did walk that back a little on Monday afternoon in a statement released by the team.
Even Senator Ted Cruz weighed in on Tuesday.
“Here’s how idiotic it is. Kyrie Irving could go to a game, could sit in the stands not being vaccinated which he did,” Cruz said. “That was perfectly OK, but if he actually plays that’s not permissible. … They fined Kyrie Irving cause he dared to go to the locker room, mind you he’s sitting in the damn stands watching the game. He could go talk to the players at the game, which he did, but when he went to the locker room $50,000.
“This is asinine, dishonest theater. Let kyrie play.”
.@SenTedCruz: "Let Kyrie Irving play. If Brooklyn won't let Kyrie play, I'm going to make a pitch to you directly. Kyrie, come to Houston, play for the Rockets. We'll let you play. He's a hell of a player. Uncle Drew's being benched by asinine Democratic theater. This is stupid." pic.twitter.com/3MsmSZNnXj
— The Hill (@thehill) March 15, 2022
The ongoing saga has taken on a personal tone among Nets fans that feel that Irving was being made an example of. The city has tried to maintain that the issue is health-related.
“We have to worry about the health of almost nine million people. No one is trying to hurt Kyrie Irving or a Yankees player,” a spokesperson for Mayor Adams told the New York Daily News.
As of now, there are no plans for any changes to be made to the vaccine mandate, but that could change down the line. And any change to the mandate could come with a political firestorm after New York City fired more than 1,000 municipal employees who did not get vaccinated.
For the past three months, Irving has been alone on the sidelines because of the vaccine mandate, but it appears he could have some company very soon. Will that help move the mayor to be more proactive in trying to find a solution?
Only time will tell.