The Brooklyn Nets announced on Tuesday that they were indefinitely barring Kyrie Irving from all team activities until he was "eligible to be a full participant".
Irving, the team’s starting point guard, had faced the prospect of being able to play only on the road with the Nets this season because of local coronavirus ordinances in New York that require most individuals to be at least partially vaccinated to enter facilities such as sports arenas. The Nets play their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” the Nets said in a statement. “Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.”
Irving has not spoken publicly about his vaccination status, asking instead for privacy. The team also has not publicly said whether Irving has been vaccinated, but he missed the preseason home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks after being listed as “ineligible” on the injury report.
Irving also was not with the Nets in Philadelphia for their preseason game against the 76ers on Monday. Asked about his absence before the game, Steve Nash, the Nets' coach, said: "We're just trying to take our time to figure out what everything means."
Irving’s potential absence from home games had created a predicament for the Nets, a team with championship aspirations that had to weigh whether having him around only half the time would be worth it. His team-mates had expressed their support for him.
“It’ll work itself out,” James Harden said last week, adding: “I want him to be on the team, of course. He’s been a huge part of our success.”
Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks play, require all employees and guests 12 and older to show proof of having received at least one vaccine dose, to comply with a city mandate, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.
San Francisco has a similar requirement that applies to Chase Center, where the Golden State Warriors play. The mandates in both cities mean that the players from the Knicks, Nets and Golden State cannot play in their teams' 41 home games without being vaccinated.
The ordinances in New York and San Francisco do not apply to players from visiting teams. There is the chance, however, that additional players could miss games if other cities enact similar ordinances that prevent unvaccinated people from attending indoor gatherings. Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, for example, have been vocal about their refusals to be vaccinated.
Either way, unvaccinated players face a host of rules and restrictions this season. With limited exceptions, they are required to remain at home or at the team hotel when they are not at games or at practices. They also are not permitted to eat with vaccinated team-mates, who have far more freedom to dine out and interact with the public.
Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players’ association, said in a recent interview that nearly 96 per cent of the NBA’s players had been vaccinated.
– This article originally appeared in The New York Times