Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets defeated their crosstown rivals the New York Knicks 110-107 on Sunday. KD was electric and scored 53 points in the victory. The atmosphere inside the Barclays Center was electric not only because of the play on the court, but who was sitting courtside. Nets point guard Kyrie Irving was able to be in the building and sit across the floor from his teammates in seats he purchased, but couldn’t play in the game due to the city’s vaccine mandates. KD talked about the oddity of the scene and had some words for NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
“I don’t get it,” Durant said. “At this point now, it feels like somebody’s trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority, but everybody out here is looking for attention, and that’s what I feel the mayor wants right now is some attention. But he’ll figure it out soon. He better. But it just didn’t make any sense. It’s unvaxxed people in this building already. We’ve got a guy who can come into the building, I guess are they fearing our safety? I don’t get it. We’re all confused. Everybody in the world is confused at this point. Earlier on in the season, people didn’t understand what’s going on, but now it just looks stupid. So, hopefully, Eric, you’ve gotta figure this out.”
ESPN talking head Michael Wilbon disagreed with KD’s assertion that the mayor was looking for attention.
Let’s be clear. The situation Irving and the Nets find themselves in could’ve been avoided. All Irving had to do was take the vaccine like all of his teammates have. He still can for what it’s worth. There is no statute of limitations on doing the right thing amidst a global pandemic.
Be that as it may, Irving is refusing for whatever reason and so the Nets are at the whim of the city and forces outside of their control.
The optics of the NYC private and public sector mandates as it relates to the vaccine look bad. The ruling isn’t consistent and looks silly as it relates to Irving. He can practice and be around his teammates unvaccinated and unmasked in Brooklyn and most other places. But he can’t play basketball with them in the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.
This isn’t about public safety or protecting others because Irving and no doubt many other unvaccinated people were in the Barclays Center on Sunday unmasked. So it has nothing to do with safety. If it did the public masking and vaccine requirements wouldn’t have been lifted.
The problem is that 1,400 NYC workers lost their jobs in February for non-compliance with the vaccine mandates. It would be a bad look for Adams to lift that private sector ban now, and allow a multimillionaire athlete the opportunity to play. But Adams doesn’t have to lift the private sector ban. You can make an exemption like Boston has for performers.
In Boston there is a vaccine exemption for professional athlete/sports team who enters a covered premises as part of their regular employment for purposes of competing. Unvaccinated visiting players can play in NYC, so it seems silly to not allow Irving to play.
Let’s be clear though. Irving isn’t some martyr and this isn’t a civil rights issue or anything close. He chose to make a selfish decision and not get vaccinated. Allowing him to play isn’t about civil rights or freedoms. But sometimes leaders and those who govern have to look at rules and mandates and determine if they should continue and if they are benefiting the greater good.
The overall private sector mandate may still be providing benefit to the greater good, but you can also use common sense and see that this situation is worthy of another approach.