The Brooklyn Nets guard says he gave up a $100 million, four-year contract extension all because he refused to get the vaccine when the NBA and the city where he plays were putting enormous pressure on players to take the jabs.
“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.”
Kyrie Irving says refusing to get vaccinated cost him $100 million 💰 https://t.co/OAEKn0xJZ1
— David Cone (@davidadamcone) September 27, 2022
Irving was only able to play road games until late in the season because of New York City’s vaccine mandate. He wound up playing for his option-year salary, but had to forego home game paychecks while he sat on the bench. The 30-year-old all star said had hoped to reach a deal with the team, but instead went into the season at loggerheads with Nets management.
“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.”
Irving played in 29 of the team’s 82 games, averaging a stellar 27.4 points per game. The team posted a 44-38 record and made the playoffs, but were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Nets GM Sean Marks denied that the team put undue pressure on Irving.
“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 said the real standoff was between Irving and the city. Earlier this month, New York mayor Eric Adams announced he’s ending the private employer vaccine mandate but keeping one in place for city workers. Irving blasted that decision, called forced vaccinations a human rights violation.
“If I can work and be unvaccinated, then all of my brothers and sisters who are also unvaccinated should be able to do the same, without being discriminated against, vilified, or fired,” Irving wrote in a Twitter post. “This enforced Vaccine/Pandemic is one the biggest violations of HUMAN RIGHTS in history.”