“Hometown Players Had An Unfair Disadvantage” | Kyrie Irving And NYC Baseball Players Enter New Era Of Unvaccinated Play

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Kyrie Irving will be able to play in the Barclays Center again now that New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been lifted.

On Thursday, the change went into effect, ending a saga in New York City that kept Irving off the hardwood in Brooklyn. The move is debatable for many reasons, many of which tie to Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, which happens on April 7.

According to reports, many New York Mets and Yankees players are unvaccinated. Due to the MLB lockout, the original Opening Day planned for March 31 also had to be rolled back to April 7.

From Lockouts To Mandate Lifts

The lockout potentially compromised the MLB’s intended regular-season calendar games, and coupled with the vaccination challenges; the league needed the mandate lifted more than any other sports organization.

According to reports, lobbyists were utilized by the Nets, specifically The Parkside Group, “a campaign management firm in New York.” Additionally, Mets owner Steve Cohen was a reported donor to a political action group that backed current NYC Mayor Eric Adams.

“Hometown players had an unfair disadvantage to those who were coming to visit,” said Adams on Thursday when he formally announced the executive order exempting New York City-based professional athletes and performers from the private sector COVID vaccine mandate.

“It’s unimaginable — treating our performers differently because they lived and played for home teams. Unacceptable. It’s a self-imposed competitive disadvantage.”

The Kyrie Irving Effect

However, with Kyrie practically on a media island of his own as the biggest story in unvaccinated professional athletes, the timing and the quasi-lobbying have opened the door for Irving’s return to home court.

Back in October, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks announced Irving’s lack of compliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate under out-going Mayor Bill DiBlasio gave the team “no choice” but to stop him from playing and practicing.

“I understood their decision and respected it,” Irving said back in October 2021. “I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization, my teammates.

“I really empathized and I understood their choice to say if you are not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full [participant].”

Double Standard Much?

The media denounced him for his decision not to vaccinate and made Irving the poster child of an anti-vaxx movement. However, he never wavered from his stance.

Even as Aaron Rodgers felt a similar reception when his unvaccinated status was discovered, Irving still took the brunt of the hate.

Now that Irving will be able to play while standing on his principles, the question arises of was the decision more of a return to normalcy for the city or a bend to lobbying efforts and political favors of baseball?

And The Winner Is … Kyrie

Irving has missed 35 home games this season and, since his return for road games, is averaging 27.7 points in 19 games. The Nets roster has changed considerably, and although Irving was always a critical piece, the team has lost Harden and gained Ben Simmons and Seth Curry.

The politics of one of the largest markets in America had bled into professional sports; however, Irving was a stand-alone target for his stance, and now his reintegration into the Barclays playing roster signals a win for the much-maligned player.

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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.