Kyrie Irving – The Man Behind the Mask
Kyrie Irving is hardly the first professional athlete to refuse to be vaccinated. Aaron Rodgers has stumbled through most of the NFL season answering questions about the subject. Novak Djokovic can’t get into Australia after refusing to get his shots. Lamar Jackson, Bradley Beal, Kirk Cousins, and apparently Antonio Brown, all have refused to get vaccinated.
But Irving’s situation is a little different.
The Brooklyn Nets star has never given a clear reason for why he has chosen not to get vaccinated, explaining it as a personal decision. But the 7-time all-star is an outlier in a league that claims it is 95% vaccinated. Irving never asked for a religious exemption, referenced Tuskegee Experiments, or cried politics. He simply decided not to get vaccinated.
The Brooklyn Nets stated that the decision was Irving’s to make, but there would be no roster spot for him until his vaccination status changed. At least that was the original plan.
Decimated by COVID-19 protocols and injuries, Brooklyn changed their mind. Irving was asked to return to the team with just one caveat. Because New York has mandated that you must show proof of vaccination or have a medical exemption for indoor events within public venues, Irving can only play in road games.
After returning to the roster, immediately being placed in the COVID-19 protocol program, and then playing in his first game on January 5th against the Indiana Pacers, Irving’s season has been, well, entertaining at the very least.
• Irving made his season debut scoring 21 points in a blowout win over the Pacers. Due to COVID-19 regulations within the state of New York, and because Irving is unvaccinated, the 7-time all-star is only allowed to attend away games rather than his home gym. I wish my Fitness Center in Broomfield had that rule.
• My Analytics Department tells me that Kyrie’s stats are much better on the road than at home this season.
• Now Kyrie Irving and James Harden BOTH travel all the time.
• Hey – If Kyrie is only allowed to attend away games, does that mean that the Nets should try and position themselves for the 8th seed?
• When Kyrie passed on getting his vaccination shots – he doubled his assist total for the season.
• Kyrie thought that the City of New York would promise him an exemption, he’s missed all but two of the Nets games this season, and he’s looking to lose more than $17 million in salary. For a player known for great handles, he doesn’t seem to be handling this situation very well.
• Besides Brooklyn and the Barclays Center, Irving is also banned from playing in New York against the Knicks, or in Toronto against the Raptors due to his vaccination status. Ironically, if the season ended today, Brooklyn and Toronto would meet in the first round.
• The good news is that Irving does follow the proper social distancing rules, staying the recommended six-feet away from others. Unfortunately, it’s only when he is asked to play defense.
• Speaking of COVID-19, I hope nothing is spreading. James Harden is only shooting 39% at the Barclays Center this season. Maybe he should just attend road games as well.
• When asked to defend his stance on not being vaccinated, Irving replied – “Defend? – I’m unfamiliar with the term.”
• Irving does have the right to avoid getting vaccinated and I am sure the NBA does a good job of making sure that all players are tested on a regular basis. But can you imagine the contact tracing it will take after Kyrie pops positive after a six-game road trip?
• If Irving travels to San Antonio to take on the Spurs, he may have to go against Tyler and Keldon Johnson. So, it’s Kyrie vs Johnson & Johnson all over again.
• The Irving saga is like a walking conundrum. When it comes to COVID-19 Kyrie is asked NOT to stay home, GO on airplanes, and take more SHOTS than anyone.
Images via usatoday.com, cnn.com, ctvnewstoronto.com, japantimes.com, espn.com