Blythe Hastings ’23
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving continued to push back against the vaccine mandate in New York, turning down a 4 year, $100 million dollar contract extension prior to this season due to his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19. Irving, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and was forced to miss home games in Brooklyn until late March because of a New York City vaccination mandate, opted into the final year of his contract, a player option worth $36.5 million, prior to the season.
In an interview Irving said, “I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated, and that was the decision,” Irving said during Nets media day on Monday. “[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.” The (once) backbone point/shooting guard of the Nets also said that he felt the decision whether to get vaccinated was like “an ultimatum” from the organization, in regard to his contract. Irving said he was hopeful that he would have the contract terms set prior to last season. “We were supposed to have all that figured out before training camp last year,” Irving said. “And it just didn’t happen because of the status of me being vaccinated, unvaccinated. So, I understood their point and I just had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow, honestly.”
Nets GM Sean Marks pushed back on the notion that Irving was given an ultimatum regarding his contract. “There’s no ultimatum being given here,” Marks said. “Again, it goes back to you want people who are reliable, people who are here, and accountable. All of us: staff, players, coaches, you name it. It’s not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That’s a completely personal choice. I stand by Kyrie. I think if he wants, he’s made that choice. That’s his prerogative completely.” Marks acknowledged that it was ultimately New York City’s vaccination mandate, coupled with Irving’s anti-vaccination decision, that stalled conversations about the future.