Protesters have scaled barricades and pushed through the gates of the Brooklyn Nets’ home arena to support Australian-born NBA star Kyrie Irving, who was unable to join the team because he chose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Kyrie Irving steadfast in her decision not to get 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 could return to practice and games when he’s eligible to become a full participant.
Videos surfacing online showed protesters chanting “Let Kyrie play” outside the arena ahead of the Nets’ first home game of the 2021-22 NBA season, some with “Stay 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 began schedule at 4 PM local time.
“The Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today to divert protesters away from the main gates in the plaza and allow guests to safely enter the arena,” a spokesperson told Reuters.
“Only ticketed guests could enter the building and the game continued on schedule.”
The NBA does not require players to be vaccinated, but Irving is not eligible to play in home games due to coronavirus regulations in New York.
Prior to this season, the Nets announced that seven-time All-Star Irving, who joined Brooklyn in 2019 after stints in Cleveland and Boston, will not play or train with the team until he’s fully qualified.
“Kyrie made a personal choice and we respect her individual choice,” the Nets said at the time.
“Currently selection limits the ability to be a full-time member of the team and we will not allow any member of our team to join with part-time availability.”
Charles Barkley supports Irving ban
Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley praised the Nets franchise for his decision not to let Irving play last week.
“First of all, you get the vaccine to others, not yourself,” Barkley said in an NBA statement on TNT.
“I’ve been vaccinated, I can’t wait to get the booster… first you vaccinate your family, then you vaccinate your teammates. That’s what’s bothering me about the whole thing.”
“The only thing that bothers me is that he’s making $17 million sitting at home.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus vaccines are “highly effective” in reducing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths in COVID-19 patients.