Kyrie Irving addressed his followers on Instagram Live on Wednesday (Oct. 13), speaking out for the first time since the Brooklyn Nets banned him from playing or practicing with the team as long as he remains unvaccinated. During the 20-minute Live session, the Nets point guard spoke on his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and addressed rumors that he may retire from the NBA.
“Nobody’s gonna hijack my voice. Nobody’s gonna take the power away from me to speak on these things,” he said. “Don’t believe that I’m retiring. Don’t believe that I’ma give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated. Don’t believe any of that shit, man. Really be aware of what’s being said… Pay attention to what’s going on in the real world.”
“People are losing their jobs to these mandates,” he continued. “People are having to make choices with their own lives, which I respect.”
Irving confirmed that he is still unvaccinated, which will prevent him from playing and practicing with the Nets for the foreseeable future. Due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the seven-time All-Star was already barred from practicing and playing at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. However, Nets General Manager Sean Marks took it one step further on Tuesday (Oct. 12) and banned Irving from playing or practicing with the team entirely, including in cities without vaccine mandates.
“It’s reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on the team, I have to be vaccinated,” he said. “I chose to be unvaccinated. And that was my choice. And I would ask y’all just to respect that choice.”
“I’m staying grounded in what I believe in,” he added. “It’s not about being anti-vax or about being on one side or the other. It’s about being true to what feels good for me. I’m still uncertain about a lot of things and that’s ok. If I’m going to be demonized about having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, then that’s just what it is.”
During the session, Irving also suggested that he applied for exemption from the vaccine mandate, but was unsuccessful.
“What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you would have exemptions or that you [wouldn’t] have to be forced to get the vaccine?” he asked followers. “This wasn’t an issue before the season started. This wasn’t something I foresaw coming where I prepared for it… I came into the season thinking that I was gonna be able to play ball. Be able to use my talent to continue to inspire, influence people in the right way. Putting this on me… This is not part of what’s going on… I’m just a person who’s being utilized as an example.”
According to The New York Post, Irving already stood to lose over $15.5 million this season by missing out on home games, even more now that he’s not allowed to play at away games either.
“It’s not about the money, baby,” he said on Live. “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? … You think I want to give up my livelihood because of a mandate? Because I don’t have accommodations? Because I’m unvaccinated? Come on. I’m not going to be used as a person in this agenda.”
“It’s not about the Nets. It’s not about the organization. It’s not about the NBA. It’s not politics. It’s not any one thing that I’m pinpointing,” he concluded. “It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”
See clips from Irving’s Instagram Live session below.