Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has found support from a group of anti-vaccine protesters who attempted to forcefully enter the Barclays Center on Sunday (Oct. 24) ahead of their home opener against the Charlotte Hornets. COVID-19 vaccine protocol in New York City prohibits Irving from taking the court in home games unless he is fully vaccinated against the potentially deadly virus.
CNN reported a group of demonstrators attempted to break barriers at the Brooklyn arena. No arrests were made during the protest. According to the news outlet, supporters of Irving had more to say about personal decisions than factual reasons against the vaccine itself.
“It’s all about choice—that’s what’s going on right now,” said a participant, Savannah Smith to CNN. The outlet reported Smith had once been a teacher, who chose not to return to work because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.
“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena. Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule,” Mandy Gutmann, a Barclays Center spokesperson, said in a statement issued to CNN.
Barbara Barker, a sports columnist for Newsday, chronicled her experience at the game on Twitter. She accounted for an estimated 500 people taking part in the protest.
“Really weird mix of people marching around with I stand with Kyrie signs. Kids with trump hats and people with Black Lives Matter shirts,” she described in one tweet. In another, she shared a video from inside of the venue, saying it was “getting scary out here.”
Getting scary out here. Crowd of protesters just jumped barricades and pushing towards door. Chanting let Kyrie play. pic.twitter.com/PlSu5B8amV
— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) October 24, 2021
Another Twitter user, Eric Thomas, a photographer from New Jersey according to his bio, shared shocking video footage from outside of Barclays. In the clip, protesters and security guards are seen physically clashing.
“anti vaccine mandate protesters storm the entry way at Barclays center and fight with security as they try to breach the stadium,” he described.
anti vaccine mandate protesters storm the entry way at Barclays center and fight with security as they try to breach the stadium pic.twitter.com/9d9cHWHZWF
— eric thomas (@justericthomas) October 24, 2021
Irving’s refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine has drawn reactions across the sports industry and entertainment world. NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, shared disappointment in the 29-year-old basketball star.
“Let’s not pretend Irving is just an innocent martyr asserting his rights,” he wrote in a column on Oct. 19. “Yes, he is making a stand and is willing to spend millions to do so. That kind of commitment may seem admirable until you realize how many people he influences (with 15.4 million Instagram followers) to do themselves and others harm by not getting vaccinated. The fact that he refuses is the only encouragement the uniformed need.”
Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks issued a statement earlier this month regarding Irving’s participation.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”
The Nets were defeated by the Hornets, 111–95. The Brooklyn team faces the undefeated Washington Wizards on Monday (Oct. 25) at the Barclays Center.