Irving’s Decision to Remain Unvaccinated Should Not Affect His Basketball Career


Due to New York’s vaccine mandate, Irving was only able to play in states with less strict vaccination rules. (Courtesy of Facebook)

On March 24 New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the mandatory vaccination mandate for private sectors that had forced everyone in NYC to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and if you weren’t vaccinated, you were not allowed to do your job in some cases. This led some of New York’s most prominent athletes, such as Kyrie Irving, to not be able to play at Nets home games in the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, but continue to play games in other states, such as a Florida game against the Orlando Magic. 

But what is most curious about this entire situation is that Irving was given the green light to attend home games and watch, but not play. Yes, he was allowed to play games in some states such as Florida, North Carolina or Indiana (all states with vaccination policies that were way less harsh than New York’s), but wasn’t allowed to play in the rest of those games (aside from sitting courtside as a fan).

Irving was, and still is, unvaccinated and has a very strong opinion about why he won’t get vaccinated. At one point, he went on a tangent on Instagram and stated, “I know the consequences here, and if it means that I’m judged and demonized for that, that’s just what it is.” This was said before the beginning of this NBA season, in the early days of October.

Fast forward to the end of March and Irving has been granted permission to play by way of the aforementioned policy that has exempted entertainers, including athletes, from being required to participate in the same COVID-19 protocols that the everyday citizen has to follow in New York City. But if we look at everything else from a logistical point of view, why is this important?

Irving, despite deciding not to get vaccinated, was allowed to sit courtside at Nets home games unmasked and in the front row. Irving was also allowed to participate in Nets practices in their facility that is just a few blocks away from the Barclay’s Center. But he wasn’t allowed to play in home games.

The Bill of Rights states that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, which includes formulating your own opinion. By not getting vaccinated and speaking out against mandates, Irving was utilizing that right as well as his right to protest to encourage the mayor of NYC to change the law in his favor. In doing all this, Irving remained very opinionated about this matter, spoke up about the issue and defended his right to choose.

Irving, like most people who are seen as opposing the public narrative, was shamed for his choices with comments that he was “selfish” and “should retire.” This has been a common theme with people who are seen as opposing the COVID-19 vaccine and any of these protocols put in place. 

But it then circles back this question: Why would he do this?

This is America, the land of the free and home of the brave. This country was constructed on the idea that the citizens could be self-dependent and have the opportunity to speak up when they see anything they find distasteful. Sure, people may have different opinions, but it is okay to disagree on things without ostracizing others and shaming them for disagreeing with the public narrative. 

I write this not as a consistent voter, nor supporter of democrat or republican politicians. I do not care about the choices that people make or how they go about their beliefs. I certainly disagree with things as most people do, but canceling people because of disagreements in their personal opinions is the antithesis of what this country was built on.

The vaccination hysteria in our society has to end, not just for professional athletes and the elites, but for everyone in general. If people are not vaccinated, that is their own choice and it is unfair to ban them from participating in society. Irving choosing not to be vaccinated was his choice, nobody forced him to do it, but he made that decision as a 30 year old man who gets north of $40 million to play basketball. Shaming people for not being vaccinated is madness, and it is time to return to times when someone’s vaccination status didn’t determine if they can be active members of society.

Thomas Aiello, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major from Allendale, N.J.