Earlier this month we checked out a few NBA players who refused to get a vaccine against COVID-19. Around 95 percent of the league is vaccinated, although several players have dropped out for their own reasons. In most cases, an unvaccinated player can create tension in the dressing room even though he is still allowed to participate. However, there is an ongoing case in Brooklyn that has gotten even more interesting.
The Brooklyn Nets have just announced that Kyrie Irving will not participate in the team’s games and practices until he is eligible under New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Nets GM Sean Marks announced that Irving “has a choice to make and he has made his choice,” saying that no player on the team would have “part-time availability”.
The vaccination mandate went into effect last month and states that anyone entering an indoor gym must have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination. These gyms include the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, the homes of the Nets and Knicks.
Irving had previously been able to practice with the team as the citywide mandate was adjusted to allow participation in private facilities, such as where the nets operate. But the Nets decided that Irving, who is only eligible for part of the season, wouldn’t fly.
As a result, Irving will be giving up his paychecks for every Nets home game this season, including two remaining preseason and two street games at Madison Square Garden. That’s $ 381,000 per game. If it skips the whole season, it will roughly expire $ 16.4 million.
Irving is not going to lose any money on missed street games as the decision to bet him came from the Nets rather than him personally. However, this move could also affect Irving’s various sponsorship deals, including relationships with Nike and Pepsi.
When asked directly at Tuesday’s press conference whether Irving received a vaccine, Marks said, “Well, if he were vaccinated, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I think that’s probably pretty clear.”
Marks added that “everyone” in the organization was aware of the situation, but the decision was made by him and his owner, Joe Tsai.
The Nets started the season with championship aspirations. Even with Irving seated, the duo of Kevin Durant and James Harden should be formidable opponents for most opponents. But Irving’s absence could prove critical throughout the season and into the playoffs.
Though unlikely, the Nets could also trade Irving instead of keeping him out all season. If he moves to a team outside of New York or San Francisco, he is eligible to play. That would be a last resort, but if the team-player relationship weakens enough during the season, it’s possible that we will see Irving on a new team.
Where we won’t see Irving is on the Nets bank. At least not until the city-wide mandate changes – or until he gets vaccinated.