Kyrie Irving has broken his silence regarding his COVID vaccination status and cleared the air during an Instagram Live session on Wednesday (Oct 14). The Brooklyn Nets point guard addressed the speculation surrounding his name and revealed that his issue is not with the COVID-19 vaccine itself, but with the mandated requirement that employees receive the shot or be relieved of their duties.
“I’m standing with all those that believe what is right,” he explained. “Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves. Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, it’s sad to see. People are losing jobs to mandates. If you choose to get the vaccine, I support you. Do what’s best for you. I continue to pray for all those out there who have lost people to the pandemic to COVID.”
During his live broadcast on social media, Irving acknowledged being fully aware of the consequence of his decision to remain unvaccinated but asks that people respect his choice and that he’s “doing what’s best for” him. He also addressed his detractors in the media and elsewhere. who he believes have “judged and demonized” him regarding his vaccination status and the potential impact it could have on the Nets’ championship hopes.
“That’s the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate,” he lamented.
Irving also referred to an alleged promise he was made by an unnamed source that there would be exemptions regarding the NBA’s COVID protocol, but that the mandate in New York City was unforeseen, causing him to have to abruptly revaluate his game-plan regarding his decision, or lack thereof.
“This wasn’t an issue before the season started,” he shared to an audience that drew over 100,000 live viewers at its peak. “This wasn’t something I foresaw coming where I prepare for and a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family. I came into the season thinking that I was just going to be able to play ball.”
Irving’s statements came a day after the Nets announced that the former NBA champion will not be able to rejoin the team until he is able to fully participate in team activities, which require a COVID vaccination. Given New York’s vaccination requirements to enter various indoor facilities and venues, it was initially believed that Irving would only be able to attend road games, excluding games in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and other cities that have enacted vaccination mandates. This would’ve caused Irving to lose half of his $35 million salary due to games missed.
However, Nets General Manager Sean Marks—who made the decision along with Nets owner Joe Tsai—said that while he, the team, and the organization respect Irving’s decision, that the show must go on, even without him. “Kyrie’s made it clear that he has a choice in this matter and it’s ultimately going to be up to him what he decides,” Marks said. “We respect the fact that he has a choice, he can make his own and right now what’s best for the organization is the path that we’re taking.”
He did make it clear that the team hopes to have Irving back and will welcome him with open arms, albeit “under a different set of circumstances,” and that the organization is currently taking a “wait and see” approach to the quagmire.
The Nets’ decision to break ties with Irving until he’s able to fully participate in team activities led to speculation by various journalists and sports talking-heads that the mercurial talent could possibly decide to retire for the game altogether in a defiant show of protest and spite regarding his stance. The show-stopping guard shot down that talk, citing that he has many more peaks to reach and plans to continue to use his platform to inspire the next generations while facilitating change within the world.
“Don’t believe that I’m retiring,” he said in reference to the reports. “Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated, don’t believe any of that sh*t man. I’m not going and leaving this game like this. There’s still so much more work to do and there still so many other youths to inspire, because I know they want to be better than me.”
Watch Kyrie Irving’s full Instagram Live session below.