Kyrie Irving is reportedly among the NBA players who have yet to receive a vaccine against COVID-19, per a report that came out earlier this week. Irving plays in New York City, and while the NBA is not mandating the vaccine for players, it is requiring players to recognize their local vaccine mandates. New York is one such city that has a mandate, and as a result, remaining unvaccinated would mean Irving can’t enter the Nets’ arena or practice facility for games or team activities.
Irving has not directly confirmed or denied whether or not he has received a vaccine, but according to his aunt, Irving might look for a “moral-based” exemption.
“He is going to try to figure that out as it comes, because it’s not religious-based, it’s moral-based,” Tyki Irving told Matt Sullivan of Rolling Stone. “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, 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*ckin’ helped build.’”
Of course, it is incorrect that the vaccine is not preventing COVID — a study in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet called breakthrough cases “extremely rare” — but that seems like it does not matter in this case. Sullivan’s reporting shows that conspiracy theories regarding the vaccine have started to make their ways into NBA locker rooms, and Irving, to one extent or another, appears empathetic.
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
It must be stressed that there has been no answer from Irving, and that there is no guarantee that comments from someone close to him indicate exactly what he is thinking. This is, however, a departure from comments given by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the subject, as the Hall of Fame inductee believes the NBA should have a zero tolerance policy for passing up the vaccine.