Kyrie Irving: New Season Comes with New Challenges

The NBA has come a long way with the new season starting, but this new season has a new rule: All players must be fully vaccinated for them to be eligible to play. Almost all NBA athletes are vaccinated except Kyrie Irving, amongst a few others. Irving is the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets and a worldwide loved player. 


Irving has been in the NBA since 2011. He was the number one pick in the draft coming from Duke University and lived up to that pick by becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA. He is a seven-time all-star, a three-time member of the all-star NBA team, and also an NBA champion. Irving has influenced many upcoming basketball players with his famous basketball shoe and skills. Recently, that influence has been challenged due to his personal choice to not get vaccinated.


Irving has refused to get vaccinated and due to mandates, he is not allowed to practice nor play with his team, the Brooklyn Nets. Vaccine mandates started to be in place in late July, and in New York, they are requiring that everyone is fully vaccinated or has at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be able to go into indoor restaurants, bars, and gyms. 


While many people think the NBA is fully responsible for stopping Irving from playing, ESPN explained the Commissioner of the NBA believed0 the problem is with New York mandates, not the NBA’s.


“This is between Irving and New York City right now,” he stated. “This is not a league issue … but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated.”


Irving is not the only player in the NBA that is not vaccinated. 10% of players in the NBA are unvaccinated, but out of that 10%, Kyrie Irving is the only player who isn’t actively playing. With him not being the only player unvaccinated, it makes people wonder why he is the only one not being allowed to play. According to Irving in an article from CBS Sports, he expected an exemption from the vaccine to play. 


“You know, if you felt uncomfortable going into the season, when you were promised that you would have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine. You know, this wasn’t an issue before the season started,” stated Irving during his Instagram live. “I came into the season thinking that I was just gonna be able to play ball, you know, be able to use my talent to continue to inspire, influence people in the right way.”


Many people agree with Irving and most recently have shown their support for him by protesting outside The Barclay’s Center where the Nets play. Thousands of people were there saying chants such as “Let him play” and “Stand with Kyrie.” Irving has not only had supporters protesting for him, but he has also had supporters from the right on the political spectrum. In an article from Vanity Fair, republican Ted Cruz has shown his support for Irving and has asked the Houston Rockets to trade for him. 


If tyrannical politicians demand you take an injection, you have NO MEDICAL PRIVACY RIGHTS. You are a sheep & you must meekly comply,” Cruz tweeted. “This is disgusting, condescending & wrong. Kyrie is showing incredible courage.”


Cruz also stands with other NBA players who haven’t gotten vaccinated like Bradley Beal, Jonathan Issac, Micheal Porter Jr., and more. Out of all unvaccinated players, Irving stands out the most since he has not played yet this season. People in the basketball world have all been weighing their opinion on his situation. The NY Post shared how hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, who are both vaccinated, spoke up about their frustrations with the Irving situation. 


“The only thing that bugs me is he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home,” Barkley said. “I really am proud of the Nets for putting their foot down — for saying ‘no, we’re not going to deal with this half on, half off [situation].”


Rolling Stone explained how Abdul-Jabbar believes that the NBA should have requirements for all players and coaches to be vaccinated, and not allow them to play if they’re not.  


“There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?” 


Abdul-Jabbar feels like Irving isn’t living up to his standard as a celebrity and feels he is putting a bad name on athletes.


“They are failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with celebrity. Athletes are under no obligation to be spokespersons for the government, but this is a matter of public health,” Abdul-Jabbar expressed. “By not encouraging their people to get the vaccine, they’re contributing to these deaths. I’m also concerned about how this perpetuates the stereotype of dumb jocks who are unable to look at verified scientific evidence and reach a rational conclusion.”


The season has been ongoing for a few weeks and Kyrie Irving has yet to play or make an appearance at the Nets games. He has the right to his opinion just like everyone else, but his decision to not get vaccinated is affecting his team, and could possibly affect him negatively in the future.