The Kyrie Irving saga continued on Wednesday night, when the Brooklyn Nets guard went on Instagram Live to discuss his current situation. Most notably, Irving confirmed that he is unvaccinated, said that he will not be retiring and claimed that he was promised an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this week, the Nets announced that Irving will not be allowed to participate with the team as a part-time player. Citing a desire to build chemistry and “remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” the Nets said Irving “will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19, and under New York City’s current health mandates, that means he would not be allowed to play in the Nets’ home games at Barclays Center. He was able to practice with the team after their facility was deemed an office building, and under the NBA’s rules, could potentially play in most road games. The Nets, however, decided not to accommodate him in that manner.
Irving’s status could change if he decides to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but based on his comments on Instagram, it doesn’t appear that he’ll be doing so anytime soon.
“It’s reality that, you know, in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated,” Irving said. “I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice. And I would ask y’all just to respect that choice, and I am gonna just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing.”
But while Irving does not appear open to receiving the vaccine himself at this time, he is supportive of those who have and clarified that his decision is “not about being anti-vax.” Furthermore, he is not planning on retiring over the issue.
“And no I’m not retiring and no I’m not leaving this game like this,” Irving said. “There’s still so much more work to do and there’s still so many other youngins to inspire. Because I know they want to be better than me. And I can’t wait to play against all y’all on this stage.”
Irving also claimed at one point that he was promised he would receive an exemption from the vaccine, and thought he would be able to play this season.
“And I don’t want to sit here and play on people’s emotions, either,” Irving said. “Just use logic. You know, what would you do? 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. This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming in where I prepared for it and I had 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 gonna be able to play ball, you know, be able to use my talent to continue to inspire, influence people in the right way.”
Further details on what sort of exemption Irving was expecting are not clear. Earlier in the offseason, Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins applied for a religious exemption, but was denied by the league and later went on to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
This whole situation is obviously not ideal for the Nets, who are hoping to avenge last season’s loss in the second round of the playoffs and compete for a championship this season. Irving was expected to be a big part of that, and it’s now possible he won’t play for them all season.
“We have to be tighter,” coach Steve Nash said earlier this week. “We have to be more connected, we have to have guys play bigger roles and be more responsible with the details. No one’s gonna come in and imitate Kyrie, so how we can make up for his loss as best as possible? And that’s through the details, through all the collective work we do, and from us coming together and really building a team.”