With a single decision, Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has become the most polarizing figure in sports.
In mid-October, Irving finally ended months of speculation regarding his COVID vaccine status, telling his fans in an Instagram Live video that he was indeed unvaccinated. Irving stated that he’s against the vaccine mandates, and feels that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies.”
His decision to not receive the shot has had dire implications for the Nets and for Irving’s career. Unvaccinated home team players in New York City are not able to play indoors, causing the Nets to shelve Irving “until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
The choice has stirred up emotions on both sides of the aisle, with more than a few questioning if he still has the desire to play the game of basketball.
But many of his fellow athletes have been supportive, and boxer Floyd Mayweather is now showing his support for Irving’s decision.
In a video posted to social media, Mayweather spoke to Irving, calling him a “great person, great father, great athlete.”
“America is the land of the free: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and supposedly freedom to choose,” Mayweather said. “Never be controlled by money. I respect you for having some integrity and being your own man. A free mind makes his own choices and a slave mind follows the crowd. Stand for something or fall for anything. One man can lead a revolution to stand up and fight for what’s right. One choice, one word, one action, can change the world. It’s crazy how people hate you for being a leader. I hope your actions encourage many others to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”
Choice is defined as an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. America gave us the choice to take the vaccine or not take the vaccine. As time moves on, that choice is gradually being stripped from us. pic.twitter.com/7F6RsWaDkL
— Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) October 25, 2021
Prior to the Nets home opener on Sunday, hundreds of protestors stood outside of Barclays Arena, with some chanting “no vaccine mandate” and “stand with Kyrie.”
The crowd reportedly grew unruly, with some protestors breaking through barricades and attempting to enter the arena, causing Barclays Center to shut their doors for a brief period of time.
“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” a spokesperson for the arena said in a statement. “Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”
While the NBA is not mandating the vaccine for players, they have strongly pushed for all players to be fully vaccinated.
On opening night of the NBA season, “Inside the NBA” on TNT discussed the Irving situation, and commissioner Adam Silver urged Irving to get vaccinated.
“I’d tell him to get vaccinated, first and foremost for himself and his family,” Silver said. “Next, for his teammates and his community and also for the league that I know he cares so much about.”
Silver touted the vaccination as a “miracle,” saying that Irving will need to be vaccinated in order to be an “engaged member of society.”
“Science is firmly on the side of getting vaccinated. And this is in essence, a miracle vaccine … It’s already saved tens of millions of lives. I think, at some point, for Kyrie to be an engaged member of society — putting aside this league — he needs to get vaccinated,” Silver continued. “That’s the law in New York: if you want to play in an arena, if you want to visit an arena, if you want to participate in an activity in an arena, you need to be vaccinated, and that’s where he finds himself.”
Hall of Famer Charles Barkley scolded Irving on his decision, taking umbrage with the fact that Irving would still be paid for away games while he remains unvaccinated.
“You don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people,” Barkley said. “I got vaccinated. I can’t wait to get the booster. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself. Like Adam [Silver] said, you get vaccinated for your family, first,” he added. “You get vaccinated for your teammates second.”
Barkley applauded the Brooklyn Nets organization for their approach to the situation, benching Irving until he is vaccinated.
“I really am proud of the Nets for putting their foot down — for saying ‘no, we’re not going to deal with this half on, half off [situation],’” Barkley said. “The only thing that bugs me, he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home.”
The Nets are off to a 2-2 start in the 2021-2022 season.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.