Big-name righties have spent the last few days applauding Irving for choosing to sit out rather than submit to the jab but after watching about 15 minutes’ worth of clips from his Instagram chat last night I’d humbly encourage them to find a better spokesman. Irving is a world-class talent on the court but not an effective communicator, to put it mildly. Sit through this clip, which runs more than eight minutes, and see how many cogent arguments you find against the vaccine or mandates. He does finally get around to one towards the end, that people shouldn’t be pressured to put anything into their bodies (which would nullify all school vaccine mandates for kids if taken seriously), but it’s a loooong slog.
Other NBA players have made the argument against mandates more effectively. But Irving’s being conscripted as the unofficial leader of the cause in pro sports partly because he’s a bigger name than the other resisters are and partly because he’s taken the momentous step of refusing to play rather than get his shots.
This was the most coherent bit from last night’s broadcast:
Kyrie Irving address his stance on not getting the vaccine on IG Live: “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job?” pic.twitter.com/cYHCWGbnCo
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 14, 2021
A recurring theme in his comments was that he’s simply doing what’s in his overall best interest, not acting politically. “This is not a political thing here. It’s not about the NBA or any organization. It’s about my life and what I’m choosing to do,” he said last night. Which was disappointing if you’re against mandates and had read The Athletic’s coverage this week about why Irving chose not to play. “Sources” told the publication that he wasn’t just acting out of his own best interest but was standing up for others:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of Irving’s decision have told The Athletic that Irving is not anti-vaccine and that his stance is that he is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates. It’s a stance that Irving has explained to close teammates. To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset. It is a decision that he believes he is capable to make given his current life dynamics. “Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” one source said.
That made it sound like he really was trying to galvanize a movement. In reality, I think a common take about Irving on social media is correct: He’s a contrarian at heart and has resisted the vaccine for no grander reason than because the consensus in favor of it is so overwhelming. It’s the same reason why he’s toyed in the past with believing that the Earth is flat. That probably had less to do with not grasping the science than with being so inclined towards contrarianism that he let the impulse lead him to idiotic places. Which made him a natural to become an anti-vaxxer.
Either way, America’s anti-mandate faction probably doesn’t want a guy who’s ambivalent about whether the Earth is flat as a top leader.
Meanwhile, as everyone’s busy bickering about wealthy and famous celebrity resisters like Irving, vaccine holdouts among the working class are quietly getting their shots:
Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that 77% of eligible Americans had received at least one shot of a vaccine…
“Since late July, when the president first announced vaccination requirements and called on organizations to follow his lead, the number of eligible Americans who are unvaccinated has decreased by about one third from 97 million down to 66 million individuals,” Zients said.
Black Americans have also closed the gap with whites on vaccination rates recently thanks to door-to-door outreach, more access, and, yes, mandates. That gap is why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an outspoken supporter of mandates, has been unsparing in his criticism of unvaxxed black NBA players. He thinks they’re setting the wrong example for members of their own demographic. “I think speaking up for vaccination is an extension of speaking up for Black Lives Matter because – who’s suffering the most in the bad economy that is caused by COVID-19? Who suffers the most deaths in the pandemic? Black people,” said Abdul-Jabbar recently to NPR.
Irving’s earned some prominent white conservative fans lately, though:
Kyrie just sacrificed more than Kaepernick ever did! https://t.co/bMNryRnIlI
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 12, 2021
Tim Miller wondered last night why none of Irving’s new admirers in righty media have been willing to follow his lead and sit out their own jobs in protest of mandates. Tucker Carlson and other Fox hosts work at a company that requires employees to either get vaxxed or get tested daily, a stricter standard than Joe Biden’s federal mandate would impose. Why not help Kyrie give “voice to the voiceless” by going on strike in solidarity? Trump Jr could vow not to appear on Fox until the company’s mandate has been lifted. Or, at the very least, he and others could pledge to boycott New York City to protest of the city mandate that’s requiring everyone to get vaccinated before entering an indoor gym.
Which, by the way, is why arguments like this don’t work:
In the 1990’s the NBA allowed Magic Johnson to play with HIV. That was the right call based on the risk protocol. Now Kyrie Irving can’t play without the covid vaccine, which provides zero risk to any healthy adult. This is all madness.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 13, 2021
The NBA’s not keeping Irving off the court. Unvaccinated players are allowed to play, although they have to take additional safety protocols. It’s New York City’s mandate for gyms that’s creating the problem. Essentially, the City has decided that if the average joe has to get vaxxed as a condition of entering a gym, the mega-rich celebrity players have to do so as well. You would think populists would appreciate that NYC is applying the same standard to everyone.
Here’s Stephen A. Smith wondering what Irving owes an employer that’s paying him more than $30 million per year.
Damn right I said this S&&@ about Kyrie Irving. And I meant every damn word. Nobody’s backing up pic.twitter.com/3gtE2N5tF3
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) October 13, 2021