By: Erich Miller, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate has left the National Basketball Association (NBA) with some of the largest questions they’ve faced in years. In New York it is required to be vaccinated if you are an athlete and wish to participate in games and practice. Yet one of the league’s biggest stars, and one of the top names in sports culture right now, Kyrie Irving, has not gotten the vaccine yet.
Irving missed practice last Tuesday because of his comments. Yet the team has not stated whether they will begin to practice outside of New York because of the team’s current situation.
This could go as far as Irving getting cut, or having to make the decision to only play him in certain games depending on each state and city’s law. If a player of Irving’s caliber does not get vaccinated and sees little to know playing time, could signal a bad sign for the NBA.
Irving would lose a total of $380,000 every home game he misses and then some with places like Toronto threatening to arrest players if they break quarantine and travel restrictions.
Irving was missing from the Brooklyn Nets opening night against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets ended up losing the game 127 to their 104 points. A 23 point difference is huge against the defending champions. The result could very well be from their lack of a superstar in Kyrie Irving.
As of now there is a chance Irving does not play at all this season and important figures around the league are putting him on full blast as they unload all kinds of words towards the Nets superstar.
On Tuesday, NBA commentator Charles Barkley carved into Irving on “NBA on TNT” stating that he was proud of the Nets for benching the Star. Barkley also chimes in on the selfishness of the situation, saying, “You don’t get the vaccine for yourself. You get it for other people.”
However, the Nets have taken a stance on Irving this season, stating that he will not be allowed to participate in any games this year until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Because of this, Irving is not able to participate in practice or scrimmages as well.
This puts the Nets in a hole. Even though they lost to the former NBA champs on opening night, we still don’t know the full impact that Irving’s absence could have on the championship hopeful Nets. With Irving’s absence they lose a top 20 player in the league which would have been paired with the nations gold medalist MVP, Kevin Durant.
The league remains firm with how they plan on handling players who don’t receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The rule seems very simple and that is to be vaccinated, or you could lose millions of dollars just like Irving. It puts a threshold on the league and impact for years to come.