‘This Is Between Irving And New York City’ | NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Weighs In On Kyrie But Hoped the NBPA Had a Vaccine Mandate

Getty Images

NBA commissioner Adam Silver broke his silence on Kyrie Irving’s unvaccinated status and an NBA vaccine mandate.

On Monday, Silver revealed that he would have “preferred” a vaccine mandate agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

Silver spoke during his annual preseason news conference, conducted virtually.

The Commish Speaks

“I won’t try to speak for [the NBPA], other than the view that some players had, I think, including maybe some players who are vaccinated, that it should be an individual choice among the players,” said Silver.

“I would have preferred that ultimately that the players’ association agreed to mandatory vaccinations. The officials union agreed to mandatory vaccinations, despite opposition from some of their members.

“But ultimately, I think we could have avoided a lot of the adversarial nature of these issues for our players. It’s not so much with the league. I think that gets confused in some cases.

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

Kyrie Irving is suspended this season because of New York City’s vaccine mandate. Irving is the only Nets player that has decided not to get the vaccine, and the decision could cost him close to $20 million.

Is The Game Doing Irving Dirty?

However, other unvaccinated players like the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal are still able to play.

“I’m not sure if fair is the right way to approach it because there’s nothing fair about this virus,” Silver said. “It’s indiscriminate in terms of who it impacts, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate that New York and other cities have passed laws that require people who both work and visit arenas to be vaccinated.

“That seems to be a responsible public health decision made by those locales, and those are the circumstances in which the Nets find themselves operating. I accept that. I think that we understand as a league we have to play the cards that are dealt, just in the same way there are variations from market to market.

“I know there are players in some markets who would prefer that their local governments pass ordinances requiring that all the fans be vaccinated who are in the buildings with them.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” he added. “I mean, frankly, I hope that Kyrie sort of, despite how strongly he feels about the vaccination, ultimately decides to get vaccinated; because I’d love to see him play basketball this season, and I’d love to see the Brooklyn Nets have their full complement of players on the floor.”

Player’s First?

Silver has been the leader of a players-first league.

Although he has encouraged players to speak their minds on issues they believe in, Silver doesn’t think personal opinions automatically become rights.

“I think that gets lost sometimes, that having an opinion about whether to get vaccinated is different than your right to play NBA basketball,” Silver said. “We’re seeing that, for example, in the New York market right now, when there’s a conflict with a player’s point of view and the local law, and the local law is going to trump that player’s point of view.

“I’ve always tried to ensure that players feel comfortable using this platform that the league affords them. I don’t mean literally the league. Just by being a famous NBA player, that they use it responsibly, that they educate themselves on points of view, but they also are respected in return.”

“I hope that to the extent that players continue to express points of view on a variety of topics that those points of view are respected. Again, that doesn’t mean that either the league will necessarily agree with them or fans will, but that fans will respect them for doing that, as long as it doesn’t cross certain lines of vulgarity or hate speech; there’s obviously some other categories where people shouldn’t go as representatives of this league.”

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.