On the same day that The Athletic’s Shams Charania revealed that the Brooklyn Nets would not be extending Kyrie Irving a $186 million extension, shortly after the team banned him from participating in any games or practices until he receives the COVID-19 vaccine, the mercurial NBA superstar went on Instagram Live to address the ongoing saga.
In the lengthy session, the 29-year-old finally broke his silence and confirmed that while he’s not officially retiring from the game he loves, he is standing strong on his decision to not be vaccinated against the coronavirus and appears ready to accept whatever consequences that come with that decision.
“This is about my life and what I am choosing to do,” he said, in reference to his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. “The financial consequences, I know I do not want to even do that. But the reality is that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice.”
As we’ve previously reported at The Root, New York City imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates that require proof of vaccination in order to enter arenas, gyms, restaurants, and other indoor venues. As a result of these protocols, players from the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets—as well as the Golden State Warriors, since San Francisco has similar mandates in place—are prohibited from playing in any home games (there are 41 of them throughout the course of the NBA’s 82 game season) unless they are vaccinated.
In accordance with these guidelines, the Nets decided that instead of having Kyrie participate as merely a part-time player this season, who would only be available for away games until he receives the vaccine, they’d rather avoid potentially disrupting the chemistry of the team entirely and instead have opted to “deactivate” their superstar point guard until he’s eligible to be a full-time participant.
“This is my life,” Irving said Wednesday night. “I get to do whatever I want with this, this is one body that I get here. And you are telling me what to do with my body. This has everything to do with what is going on in our world. And I am being grouped into something that is bigger than just the game of basketball.”
He continued, “It’s going to continue to revolve around this and that, and, ‘Yo, you’re gonna lose out on money,’ and, ‘Yo, you’re gonna lose out on this.’ So what. It’s not about the money, baby. It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job?”
It would be a shame if a player of Kyrie’s caliber never touches an NBA basketball court again, but at this point, it’s looking like a strong possibility.