Even as New York City continues to roll back vaccine mandates, there appears to be no movement on lifting the private-sector mandate that has continued to keep Kyrie Irving off the floor for home games, and could impact the New York Mets and Yankees.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams again faced questions about the mandate after his administration announced on Tuesday that it would be lifting the mask mandate for kids 2-4 beginning next month. Adams, now nearing his fourth month in office, has faced increasing calls to amend or lift the private-sector mandate, especially as it has impacted Irving’s ability to play at Barclays Center.
The Nets superstar, who is one of a small few of NBA players not to be vaccinated, is now able to attend games in Brooklyn as a fan since the Key2NYC mandate was lifted earlier this month. That has led to a wide range of people from Nets fans to Texas Senator Ted Cruz to call on Adams to allow Irving to play.
“We’re going to slowly peel back, as I stated over and over again, we’re going to do it layer by layer,” Adams said. “And each layer we peel back we going to an analysis. Are we ok? And if we have to pivot and shift and come back here in a week and say we’re going to do something different, we’re going to do that. I’m not going to hesitate to say, ‘this is where the numbers are taking us. This is where the science is and this is what we’re going to do.'”
Irving and the Nets have been waiting since January for something to change in regards to the vaccine mandates in the city. The Nets guard returned on a part-time basis in January and has faced his own critics dues to his decision to remain unvaccinated.
The focus shifted over time from if Irving would get vaccinated to will New York City mandates change as COVID numbers began to drop. Now with New York’s two professional baseball teams likely being impacted now, there has been increasing curiosity to see if the Mayor’s office would make any changes.
“Right now we’re going to take some complaints,” Adams said. “But when this is all said and done people are going to realize that this is a thoughtful administration and we got it right. So baseball, basketball, business, all of those things they have to wait until that layer comes. Right now we are announcing just our 2-4-year-olds.”
Adams was asked what the city had seen that has prompted them to keep the private-sector mandate in place, but didn’t offer any specifics in his reply to the question.
The Nets are down to their final 10 games of the season and Irving is eligible for just three, including Wednesday’s game against Memphis. After this week’s two-game road trip, the Nets play six of their last eight games at Barclays Center and one game at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, where Irving is also ineligible.
If Brooklyn’s position in the standings doesn’t change, Irving would also be ineligible for the play-in round should the Nets face the Toronto Raptors.
Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated has been a hotly debated topic among those in the public, but the Nets have remained behind their star. Kevin Durant said on Monday that the team has never been mad with Irving for his choice.
“I don’t think we were ever upset at him as much as people on the outside were,” Durant told ESPN. “We get that it may affect the outcome of some basketball games, but that’s not the only reason why we love Kyrie as a person because what he can bring to the court. I think overall him as a human being, we respect who he is, we respect the game on top of that.
“He made the decision for himself, so you just got to respect it and move forward.”