NBA draws a line as stars like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins balk at Covid vaccine

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Four years after defying social norms and science by admitting he thinks the Earth is flat, Brooklyn Nets goalie Kyrie Irving is once again making headlines – and controversy – with his refusal to get the shot against Covid-19, even if it risks losing millions because of its position.

Irving, 29, is one of a group of current NBA players – which includes Golden State Warriors star Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic – who have chosen not to be vaccinated as NBA 2021 – Season 22 is set to unfold during the ongoing pandemic. Irving and Wiggins play home games in New York and San Francisco, respectively, and those cities have vaccination mandates in place that Nets and Warriors players must adhere to to play indoors in team arenas, the Barclays Center (Nets) and Chase Center (Warriors).

“I am above all a human being. Obviously, living in this public sphere, these are just a lot of questions about what’s going on in Kyrie’s world, ”Irving said during a video call with reporters on Nets Plus media day. early this week. Irving was not allowed to be in person for the event due to his unvaccinated status.

“I would just like to keep this private. Manage it well with my team and move forward with a plan, ”Irving said.

The NBA cannot force players to get vaccinated. Such a mandate would require an agreement between the league and the Players’ Association. (Ironically, Irving, educated by Duke, is vice chairman of the union executive). But the league flexed its muscles in another way on Wednesday, targeting the bank accounts of vaccine-resistant.

“Any player who chooses not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games they miss,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.

Irving made around $ 35 million last season and is expected to earn $ 36.6 million in the final year of his contract. Irving earns over $ 400,000 per game with the Brooklyn Nets. Wiggins is expected to earn $ 31.5 million this year. For every game Wiggins misses, he will lose over $ 350,000 in pre-tax salary.

Messages sent to the NBPA and General Manager Michele Roberts were not returned. But NBA owners and general managers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the looming conflict.

“Our hope is that our roster that we considered earlier this summer will be available for all games,” Nets general manager Sean Marks told SiriusXM NBA Radio. “That’s our hope. When it comes to Kyrie, it’s a private matter that he’s going to take care of, and we’ll get to it at the right time. But again, we’ve made our position clear. I know that. New York City has made their position clear. And it’s about us supporting our players and making sure we stick to all of these protocols, and hopefully achieve our ultimate goal. “

During Golden State media day, Warriors general manager Bob Myers said, “As for the immunization status of a particular individual, I’m not going to talk about it. It’s personal, c “is private. What I would say is I’m optimistic first. Game here at Chase (Center), we’ll have a full squad, in terms of who’s healthy and who isn’t.” I’ll stop there. “

During the same media session, Wiggins, 26, bristled after answering numerous questions about his decision to refuse the vaccine, opting for an age-old tactic of blaming the media.

“I’ll say something when I’m ready. The only thing the media has done is make it bigger than it should be, ”Wiggins said. “I am working on my time.” (The NBA denied Wiggins a religious exemption).

Beyond the threat of losing their paychecks, however, NBA players who have decided not to get the shot have already opened up to public contempt and verbal reprimands across the country and around the world – as this or the center of the NBA Hall of Fame Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Remarks In an interview with Rolling Stone, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez used a parliamentary session to apparently criticize Irving or New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for pleading for the Nets star to be vaccinated.

“I’m a Kyrie fan,” de Blasio said in an interview with CNN. “I would just like to call on him, to get vaccinated. Your fans want to see you. We all want you to come back. Your teammates want you to come back.

Abdul-Jabbar, 74, the all-time leader of the NBA in terms of points scored, said in an interview with Rolling Stone that the league “should insist that all players and staff be vaccinated or withdraw them from the field. the team “.

And while Willis Reed has said the punishment Abdul-Jabbar suggested is a bit “extreme,” the Hall of Fame Knicks center has advocated that everyone – the NBA community and beyond – should be vaccinated, no matter what. it is.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a medical problem. I think if you’re going to be in contact with people, you’ve got to be vaccinated, ”Reed, 79, told NBC News. “I had all my shots. And I do nothing! But I want to make sure that I protect myself and everyone around me. Suddenly, it does not hurt but a little.

“Vaccination has been very successful in America and around the world. I don’t know why this must be such a controversial situation. But it turned out that was it. And that’s unfortunate, ”added Reed. “Vaccination is the key thing that everyone should do. “

Former NBA greats voicing their opinions may be a way to make changes, but the league doesn’t get the same outspokenness from some of its current biggest stars, like LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, a former Irving teammate in Cleveland.

“As far as speaking on behalf of everyone and their individualities and the things they want to do, that’s not my job,” James, 36, said on media day at the ‘team.

Dr Scott Braunstein, medical director of Sollis Health Los Angeles, and who has been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, said he wondered why players like Irving would still be resistant to the vaccination at this point, when the American coronavirus has died the number is close to 700,000.

“Obviously that’s a big concern because whether you like it or not these NBA players are seen as role models,” Braunstein said. “The players are very exposed and you put all of these people at increased risk if you are not vaccinated. Players sometimes have a feeling of invincibility. Athletes in their prime, they may think this is a reason not to get the vaccine. But these players don’t see what we’re seeing – young, healthy men and women on ventilators, or with long-term symptoms of Covid. This feeling of invincibility does not help matters.

Irving eventually apologized to science teachers in late 2018 for his beliefs that the earth is flat, but in 2021 he is not making such openings. It remains to be seen whether he will wear the Nets uniform on October 24, the team’s home opener against Charlotte.

“Obviously, I can’t be there (on team media day),” Irving said during the video call. “But that doesn’t mean that I put limits on my future to be able to join the team. And please respect that, my privacy.


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