Speaking for the first time since the Nets decided they would not welcome him as a part-time player this season due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 shot, Kyrie Irving made it clear that he wasn’t going to retire.
Otherwise, the thinking and status of the Nets point guard for the season has remained unclear as he tries to explain why he was not vaccinated, which for the foreseeable future will keep him off the pitch.
“It’s true that in order to be in New York, to be part of the team, I have to be vaccinated,” Irving said Wednesday night during a 20-minute Instagram Live session that drew over 100,000 viewers. “I chose not to be vaccinated. And it was my choice. And I would ask you all to respect this choice.
“I stay grounded in what I believe in,” Irving said. “It’s not about being anti-vax or being on one side or the other. It’s about being true to what makes me feel good. I am still uncertain about a lot of things. And that’s OK. If I’m going to be demonized for having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, then that is exactly what it is.
New York City vaccination warrants prohibit Irving from playing at home at Barclays Center due to his unvaccinated status. The team went further on Tuesday, with general manager Sean Marks announcing that Irving would not play or train with the team, at home or on the road, “until he is eligible for be a full participant ”- meaning he receives the vaccine or local mandates change.
“What would you do 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 shot?” Irving said. “It was not a problem before the start of the season. It wasn’t something I expected to happen where I had prepared for it.
It is not clear whether Irving has requested an exemption. Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins was recently denied a religious exemption before getting vaccinated so he could play a full schedule.
As of Wednesday, the death toll from COVID-19 had reached more than 700,000 in the United States. Vaccines have been shown to largely prevent deaths and hospitalizations.
“We’ve just come out of one of the craziest pandemics ever and you’re telling me to think rationally?” Irving said. “How many people really think rationally? “
Irving stands to lose over $ 15.5 million this season if he doesn’t play a home game due to the vaccine problem.
“It’s not about the money, baby,” Irving said. “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. Do you think I really want to lose money? Do you think I really want to give up my dream of chasing a championship? Do you think I really want to quit my job? Do you think I really want to stay home and not take care of things with my teammates that I grew up with, learn with? … Do you think I want to give up my livelihood because of a mandate? Because I don’t have a place to stay? Because I am not vaccinated? Go on. I’m not going to be used as a person in this diary.
“It’s not about the Nets. It’s not about the organization. It’s not about the NBA. It is not politics. It is not something that I identify. It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.
Prior to Wednesday, Irving had not spoken publicly since Nets media day on September 27. He repeatedly requested confidentiality when asked about his vaccination status and availability to play.
But Irving, who admitted to having said “some of the dumbest things of my life” before, spoke again on Wednesday, saying “to help your fellow man understand that they have a choice.” He said he stood by the people who had lost their jobs because of vaccination warrants while insisting he was “on both sides of it all.”