Kyrie Irving Not Present At Brooklyn Media Days As Questions Around Vaccination Status Linger

 NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 07: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets handles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on June 07, 2021 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

NBA media days have arrived, and as always, there is a general theme. 

This year, the theme will be COVID-19, and the handful of NBA players that have decided not to receive the vaccine. Out of all the professional sports leagues in America, the NBA is viewed as the league that handled the COVID-19 pandemic in the most “scientific” way. The pandemic in the United States essentially began at the time when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz first tested positive for the virus, shutting down the season for four long months before the league was able to restart the 2020 season again. When the league did resume play, they did so in a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, that followed strict guidelines in order to keep the virus from spreading throughout the NBA. Whatever the league did, it worked, as the NBA was able to crown a champion for the 2020 season. 

The 2021 season was closer to normal than the 2020 season, but NBA arenas still did not see full crowds until the end of the season. Now, with the vaccine widely available, commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA are hopeful that the upcoming NBA season will be as close to normal as possible. 

The league has opted against mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for players, but is making a strong push to have 100% of its players fully vaccinated. 

One player who appears to have decided against the vaccine is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. Known for his eccentric ways of thinking, Irving was not present at Brooklyn’s media day. 

“That’s on Kyrie and that’s his personal decision. What he does is not on us to speculate what may happen,” Nets star Kevin Durant said. “We trust in Kyrie, and I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”

It’s a decision that is sure to become an issue for the Nets, as two NBA cities — New York City and San Francisco — will require professional athletes to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine to play indoors.

How unvaccinated players will go about a season in which there are arenas that require proof of vaccination in order to play is unclear, but there is the chance that they will simply not participate in their teams’ games in those cities. 

Irving participated in an Instagram live during Brooklyn’s media days and did not confirm whether or not he is vaccinated. 

“You gotta make sure you respect the privacy,” Irving said. “I don’t want to create any more drama, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m going continue to inspire and lead in the right way. Don’t say I never did anything for y’all. I hope y’all enjoyed that.”

On Saturday, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled “The NBA’s Anti-Vaxxers Are Trying to Push Around the League—And It’s Working,” detailing the issues the NBA may face with unvaccinated players and the few players that have decided against the vaccination so far.

“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs the seven-time All-Star’s family foundation and is one of the few people in his regular circle of advisors. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”

Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors and Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic are two NBA players who are unvacccinated. 

“You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests,” Isaac said. “We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent.

“If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”

Wiggins was denied a religious exemption from the NBA last week. 

“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement. “Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements.”

When asked about playing in Nets home games considering the vaccination rules in place, Irving declined to answer on Monday.

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — has been an advocate for the vaccine since it became available, even receiving his shot on video. He told Rolling Stone that players that refuse to get the jab are “contributing to these deaths.”

“They are failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with celebrity. Athletes are under no obligation to be spokespersons for the government, but this is a matter of public health,” the Hall-of-Famer told Rolling Stone in an e-mail. Abdul-Jabbar is especially disappointed in athletes of color: “By not encouraging their people to get the vaccine, they’re contributing to these deaths. I’m also concerned about how this perpetuates the stereotype of dumb jocks who are unable to look at verified scientific evidence and reach a rational conclusion.”

As training camps get underway and the NBA regular season approaches, those that have not been vaccinated will continue to be in the news as the nationwide push for the vaccine continues. How the league will handle these players remains to be seen. 

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

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