Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving on Wednesday explained his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 a day after his team announced it was suspending him because his stance made him ineligible to play or practice in their arena.
Irving framed his decision as standing up for people who lose jobs to mandates and also claimed that there were exemptions promised from the vaccine mandates.
“I’m standing with all those that believe what is right. Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves. Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, it’s sad to see. People are losing jobs to mandates,” Irving said on Instagram Live.
“What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine?” Irving asked.
“This wasn’t an issue before the season started,” he said. “This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family.”
Irving said that his decision was not politically motivated, adding that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies.”
“You think I really want to give up my dream to go after a championship?” Irving asked. “Do you think I really just want to give up my job? You think I really just want to sit at home and not go after the things with my teammates that I’ve been able to grow with, to learn with?”
Irving is one of three star players on the Brooklyn Nets, who remain the favorites to win the NBA title even without the guard.
He’s also one of a number of NBA players who have refused to get vaccinated. Irving’s situation was unique, however, because he plays in Brooklyn.
New York City requires proof of vaccination for all individuals attending large indoor events, including performers and athletes like Irving.
Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks on Tuesday said the NBA star would not practice or play with the team until he meets eligibility requirements.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Marks said. “Currently, the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.”
The NBA star also told fans in the video on Wednesday that he does not plan to retire, CNN noted.
“Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated,” he said.