Brooklyn Nets owner calls on Kyrie Irving to get his Covid jab amid the NBA star’s vaccine mandate stand-off… but chief concedes that the decision remains out of his hands
- Joseph Tsai has called on NBA star Kyrie Irving to get his Covid vaccination
- The Brooklyn Nets point guard is out of the team due to his anti-mandate stance
- Owner Tsai says there is no way that Irving returns until the situation changes
- The billionaire also hit out at high-profile figures for ‘hijacking’ the debate
Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai has urged Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated, but has admitted that the decision remains out of his hands amid the NBA star’s stand off.
Irving, 29, is currently not part of the Nets team as a result of his refusal to take the Covid vaccination.
Irving stands to lose around half of his $35million (£25.5m) salary this season because of New York’s vaccine mandate, which prevents him from playing home games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center without being vaccinated.
The point guard would have been permitted to play road games and even practice in Brooklyn, because the team’s training center is considered a private workplace and not a public arena, but the team decided to sideline him indefinitely until he’s vaccinated or a permanent solution can be reached for him to be part of the team.
Tsai has addressed his star player’s refusal to get the jab in an interview with ESPN, via Yahoo, in which he conceded that he is not confident the NBA champion will be vaccinated.
Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai called on Kyrie Irving (pictured) to get his Covid vaccination
‘I don’t know,’ Tsai said when asked when he thinks Irving will play again.
‘Either he has to be vaccinated in order to come back if the New York mandate is still in place. And don’t ask me when they may or may not change the New York mandate.
‘Again, if you ask the people that are making decisions at the city level, they are going to say we are going to rely on science, rely on what the health department tells us [in order to proceed].’
The Nets have insisted that Irving will not represent the team again until the vaccine standoff is resolved, and Tsai has re-affirmed that this situation has not changed.
‘Last time [I] talked to him was when we made the decision that he was not going to be playing until something changes,’ Tsai added. ‘We haven’t communicated since then.
The 29-year-old is sidelined due to his refusal to comply with New York City’s jab mandate
‘Obviously Kyrie has his own belief so I respect that. But we have to make a team decision. This is not a decision about him. This is a decision about where we go as a team.’
A number of high-profile figures have weighed in on Irving’s vaccination standoff, including Donald Trump Jr and Floyd Mayweather. Tsai hit out at people ‘hijacking’ this issue ‘when life and death is at stake’.
‘I just think that it’s cavalier for people to hijack something like this when life and death is at stake,’ Tsai said. ‘People shouldn’t make it into a political issue.
‘The fact is, if you are not vaccinated and you catch COVID, you have a much higher probability of getting very, very sick and end up in the ICU and possibly die. That’s the consequence.’
The NBA does not require its players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to play but referees and other staff who have close contact with players are required to be fully vaccinated to continue in their roles.
Nets owner Tsai says that Irving will not return to the team until a solution has been reached
Addressing issues around vaccination earlier this month, Irving told reporters remotely on NBA Media Day: ‘I’m a human being first. Obviously living in this public sphere, it’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie and I think I just would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way, with my team and go forward together with the plan.’
Coming to the defence of Irving, his aunt Tyki told Rolling Stone: ‘There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way.
‘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.
‘He is going to try to figure that out as it comes, because it’s not religious-based, it’s moral-based. You may have to sit on the sideline, you might not have to be in the arena during this.
‘If it’s that freaking important to get a vaccine that, hell, it’s still not preventing the Covid – (which it does) – then I’d rather them working it out that way than to say, “Hey, if you don’t get the vaccine, then you can’t be a part of the franchise that you f***ing helped build”.’