NEW YORK (AFP) – The Brooklyn Nets decided Tuesday to bar star guard Kyrie Irving from practice as well as games in the NBA season that starts next week because he refuses to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose.
“Currently, his 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.”
Irving, 29, is part of the Nets’ star trio that also includes Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, New York has implemented new health and safety regulations which do not allow unvaccinated athletes to take part in practices and games.
He could theoretically have played in road games without being vaccinated, but Marks’ statement rules that out.
At a video press conference later Tuesday, Marks agreed with a suggestion that the Nets had been left with “no choice” but to leave Irving on the sidelines.
“Ultimately yes,” Marks said. “He has a choice to make and he made his choice. My job here is to make what we deem is the best decision and the best choices for the organisation as a whole.
“They’re not always ones that are going to be met with open arms and a thumbs-up. These are hard decisions.
“Just like I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Kyrie either to have to make that [decision] to not be around his teammates.”
Marks said he made the decision in consultation with Joe Tsai, the Nets’ billionaire owner.
“We had everything on the board. We looked at everything. When you make a decision like this it’s not one you want to make hastily,” Marks said.
“Again, involve all the parties, think about the variety of different outcomes. They’re never easy decisions but at the end of the day we’re looking at putting a group of people out there that are going to be able to participate fully. That’s what this comes down to.
“And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be part-time. I don’t think it’s fair on the team, the staff, the ownership and the fans, but also it’s not fair on Kyrie either.”
The Nets begin their regular season at the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks next Tuesday.
Golden State Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins had also refused to get the vaccine but relented to keep playing.
Wiggins said after getting the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week: “I guess you don’t own your body.”