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Mayor Adams: Stop Punishing Nets Fans With Outdated Vaccine Mandate
For the first time in two weeks, Nets superstar guard Kyrie Irving was available to suit up for Saturday night’s tilt in Milwaukee. He was magnificent in Brooklyn’s shocking 126-123 victory over the team that knocked them out in last postseason’s second round and then went on to capture the NBA Championship, scoring 38 points and dishing out five assists.
And now he’ll be out for another three games. I believe it is the right time to ask: Why is this necessary and who is getting punished here?
I’ve been ranting all season about how Irving should have acceded to getting injected with the COVID-19 vaccine along with 99% percent of his NBA colleagues, none of whom have experienced any major side effects that could derail their careers. Instead, Irving’s illogical obstinance has been the instigator to all that has gone sideways with Brooklyn’s season, all the way through James Harden’s passive-aggressive behaviors that drove him to engineer a trade out of town at the deadline. When called upon to literally “take one for the team,” Irving chose to bail.
Since Irving’s home arena is in New York City, he has been prevented from competing there under NYC Executive Order 225 (and subsequent amendments). The Nets initially banned him from all team events but relented in January to allow him to play road games where possible (Toronto and Madison Square Garden have vaccine mandates).
Brooklyn’s remaining schedule calls for Irving to max out at just seven of the team’s final 21 games unless NYC Mayor Eric Adams ends the mandate. Adams has been rather coy about his intentions, at times appearing sympathetic to Irving’s plight while also in no hurry to make any changes, frustrating Nets Nation.
Adams’ recent comment sent me into a tizzy. He said, “(Ending the vaccine mandate) is something that people are asking about. Listen, you bring a championship game here, you bring in millions of dollars in revenue, but we cannot base our decisions on sports.”
Who’s he kidding? Adams’ predecessor may have signed the original Order but he is well aware that it was tailored to cater to celebrity types such as professional performing artists and athletes, exempting all “nonresidents” from the mandate. The Order didn’t exempt college or high school athletes, just the pros. It didn’t exempt personal trainers at gyms—they don’t bring the City enough revenue.
As a result, unvaccinated Joe Rogan could have hit the stage at the Comedy Cellar if he so chose and Bradley Beal played at Barclays Center for the Wizards before his season-ending injury. Irving, though, is still blackballed in NYC.
As I noted over a month ago, all Adams has to do to restore fairness is remove one word from Paragraph 2c of the original Order so the exemption reads, “A
nonresident professional athlete/sports team who enters a covered premises as part of their regular employment for purposes of competing…”
Simple stuff. I wrote that it wasn’t appropriate then, due to the high community spread from the Omicron variant, but it’s appropriate now. Adams, though, continues to be hesitant.
“The real game we’re fighting is a game of safety and health, and we’re going to make the right decision for New Yorkers,” Adams said. “I want that championship ring, but not at the expense of making sure we shut down our city again – and if it falls in line, (it) falls in line--if it’s not, we got to make the right decision for New Yorkers.”
OK, so let’s talk about the health risks. The City’s Health Department reported a seven-day average of fewer than 700 COVID-19 cases on Friday, down nearly 98% from the Omicron variant’s peak in January. New hospitalizations, maybe the most important indicator, are also dropping precipitously.
So I ask again: What is this provision in the mandate accomplishing now? Remember too that I believe that all NYC pro athletes who perform at indoor venues (Nets/Knicks/Rangers/Liberty) have been vaccinated. All but Irving, that is. Does anyone believe we’re still talking about the City’s safety at this point? From one unvaccinated individual in a class?
Sorry, but this comes across as punishment. Unfortunately, Adams isn’t just punishing Irving, he’s also sticking it to all those who enjoy watching Irving ply his craft so masterfully.
Some politicians just can’t take the win. When a health & safety order results in nearly 100% compliance, that’s a win.
No need to wait on your new Health Commissioner slated to start in mid-March--take the win and run, Your Honor.