Protesters have scaled barricades and pushed toward the doors of the Brooklyn Nets’s home arena in support of Australian-born NBA star Kyrie Irving, who cannot join the team as he has chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Kyrie Irving is standing firm in his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19
- The NBA does not require players to be vaccinated but Irving is not eligible to play in home games due to COVID regulations in New York
- The Nets said Irving can return to training and playing when he is eligible to be a full participant
Videos that surfaced online showed protesters outside the arena ahead of the Nets’s first home game of the 2021-22 NBA season chanting “Let Kyrie play”, while some held “Stand with Kyrie” signs.
Security had to lock down the Barclays Center at one point, which prevented some fans from entering, but the game against the Charlotte Hornets commenced on schedule at 4pm local time.
“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” a spokesperson told Reuters.
“Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”
The NBA does not require players to be vaccinated but Irving is not eligible to play in home games because of coronavirus regulations in New York.
The Nets announced ahead of the current season that Irving, a seven-times All-Star who joined Brooklyn in 2019 after stints with Cleveland and Boston, would not play or practice with the team until he was eligible to be a full participant.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” the Nets said at the time.
“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.”
Charles Barkley backs ban on Irving
Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley last week praised the Nets franchise for its decision to not allow Irving to play.
“First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people,” Barkley said on NBA on TNT.
“I got vaccinated, I can’t wait to get the booster … you get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second. That’s what bothers me about this whole thing.”
“The only thing that bugs me is he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus vaccines are “highly effective” in reducing severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths in COVID-19 patients.