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Kyrie Irving’s options if he’s not vaccinated

Kyrie Irving, Nets

On Tuesday we learned that the Nets may have a couple of players who have yet to be vaccinated. The NBA is not requiring players to be vaccinated. But there are a couple of cities that have their own regulations which have become relevant. Because of local COVID-protocols in New York and San Francisco, all players on the Knicks, Nets, and Warriors would need a jab in order to practice locally and participate in home games. But there could be a couple of exceptions to this rule which we’ll look at here. On Thursday, Yaron Weitzman, writing for FoxSports suggested one player who might not be vaccinated yet is Nets star Kyrie Irving.

Per Weitzman:

“One player who could be affected is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. According to multiple league sources, Irving has yet to receive a vaccine shot. Both the Nets and a spokeswoman for Irving declined to comment on the record about Irving’s vaccination status, but Nets general manager Sean Marks was asked during a news conference on Tuesday whether New York City’s mandate could sideline any of his team’s players.”

There’s no official word on any of this yet, but some folks have noted that Kyrie Irving was seen at some basketball arenas in sections where vaccines are required, like at Staples Center.

But just in case Weitzman’s report turns out to be accurate… what then would Irving’s options be? What about medical or religious exemptions?

Per Ian Begley and Alex Smith, writing for SNY:

“Per a New York City executive order, visiting players to New York City are exempt from the vaccine requirement, but Knicks and Nets players are not. There is a similar local ordinance in San Francisco, which impacts the Warriors.

If an unvaccinated Knick or Net player doesn’t have a medical or religious exemption (which will be determined by the NBA), the player won’t be allowed to enter home arenas or practice facilities or participate in any games, practices, or other team activities conducted at the arenas/practice facilities.

Begley notes that players failing to adhere to the local requirements could be viewed as failing to provide services under terms of their contract and could be fined or suspended by the league or his team or see their compensation reduced.

It sounds like this won’t wind up being an issue for the New York Knicks.

But it sounds like it will be an issue for Andrew Wiggins and the Golden State Warriors.

According to Chris Cwik, of Yahoo Sports:

“The San Francisco Department of Public Health ruled Friday that unvaccinated individuals cannot enter the Chase Center, even if they have a religious or medical exemption, according to San Francisco Gate.”

So if Weitzman’s report is accurate that Kyrie Irving is not yet vaccinated, and if Irving happened to be resolved not to take the jab, then the next logical question would be would New York take a similar stance as San Francisco and disallow the few exceptions? 

Irving not being eligible to play home games in Brooklyn, theoretically, would represent the Nets nightmare scenario. If any one of the Nets’ big three were out, whether it be because of a sprained ankle, pulled hamstring or vaccination status, it would level the playing field quite a bit. The Nets, as currently constructed have the most loaded roster in the NBA, and the best player on the planet.

So we’ll wait for confirmation about the Weitzman report, and whether or not New York would rule similarly to San Francisco on potential exceptions to vaccine mandate rules, should any Nets players attempt to seek one out, like possibly Kyrie Irving.

For what it’s worth, Nets’ GM Sean Marks likely knew this situation earlier in the week and expressed confidence his team would be ready for the regular season. For now, we await more news.

I must admit, it’s an unusual time to be a sports writer. I’m much better equipped discussing James Harden-Nic Claxton pick-and-rolls than a local vaccination ordinance potentially swinging NBA title odds. But, for the time being, Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status is taking center stage.