Thank You, Kyrie Irving


Thomas Krukar , Editor-in-Chief

As the NBA’s 75th season gets underway, many fans and players are surprised at the absence of one of the league’s best and most entertaining players. Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving has yet to play in any games this season, and he is currently not participating in any team activities. The reason for Irving’s absence is his refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Many people believe that Irving is endangering the lives of others by refusing to get vaccinated. Others would argue that Irving, a key member of a loaded Nets team, is hurting his squad through his absence from the team. Many fans of the league believe that Kyrie has gone crazy, and they are appalled at Irving’s unwillingness to place basketball as his first priority. But what are the real motives behind Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, and why are people so concerned about his personal decision?

After President Joe Biden’s approval for city and state governments to institute their own vaccine mandates, New York City’s government decided to institute a vaccine mandate of their own. This mandate required members of the professional basketball teams in the city to be vaccinated in order to compete in their team’s home games throughout the season. The vast majority of players and staff complied with vaccination orders, but one prominent player made the bold decision to remain unvaccinated. Kyrie Irving, a seven-time All-Star and NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers, has continually refused to receive the vaccine even in the face of losing millions of dollars.

The decision to remain unvaccinated has perplexed many fans and although we do not know for sure, the decision has most likely irritated some of his teammates and coaches. Almost the entire NBA, both players and coaches, are vaccinated against the virus. Some players, such as Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, were reluctant to receive the vaccine but eventually complied with their local governments’ mandates in order to be a part of their teams. But Kyrie has refused to budge and people are losing their minds about it.

The reasons for Kyrie’s refusal to get vaccinated are not entirely clear to us, as he has not been able to talk to the media since he is unvaccinated. But “The Athletic” has learned through sources that Irving’s stance is not rooted in concern over the vaccine’s safety. According to people close to Kyrie, his refusal to get vaccinated is more about giving a voice to the voiceless.

Irving disagrees with the vaccine mandates being installed by governments and businesses, and he is appalled that people could lose their jobs over their choice to not get vaccinated. Irving knows he is safe financially, and he is willing to take the risk of losing out on millions of dollars to stand up for what he believes in. But he also realizes that many people refusing the vaccine aren’t as blessed as he is financially, and those are the people that Kyrie wants to stand up for.

As any NBA fan knows, Kyrie has been involved in his fair share of controversy over the course of his career. In 2017, he famously stated his belief that the earth is flat, a belief that drew both laughs and eye-rolls from fans and scientists alike. Kyrie drew the ire of many fellow players when he tried to encourage others to not participate in the league’s bubble in Orlando during the summer of 2020. Irving has faced a substantial amount of criticism for his lack of leadership on the court, and his apparent inability to connect with his teammates or coaches. Those close to Kyrie agree that he is unique in the sense that he does not adhere to the way that people think he should act. He has never been afraid to express his own opinion, and he even missed a number of games last season to focus on his mental health.

One could go on for days naming and scrutinizing various controversial statements and opinions from Irving, and it is clear that Irving has been wrong about many things before. But why are people so up in arms about him making a personal decision to not get vaccinated? It is one thing if someone is a fan of Brooklyn’s basketball team and they are disappointed to not see Irving on the court, but those who are neutral seem to care about Irving’s decision way more than they should.

Kyrie is not calling the vaccine “unsafe” or “dangerous,” and he is not promoting some far-fetched idea or theory against the vaccine that he found on social media. The idea that Irving is putting others’ lives at risk because of his denial of the vaccine is a gross exaggeration of reality. Even though you have a better chance of contracting the virus if you are unvaccinated, studies have shown that it is still possible to contract the virus and pass it on even if you are vaccinated. And since all of Irving’s teammates and coaches are vaccinated, it would be less likely for Irving to pass on the virus to a member of the team if he were to get it.

Some people seem to take issue with Irving’s willingness to put other issues in society over basketball. Kyrie has never been afraid to say that basketball has not always been the most important thing in his life, and through his actions he has proven that to be true. But why do so many people have a problem with the fact that Irving is willing to put pressing societal issues over basketball? Kyrie has the freedom of choice to decide what he wants to value most in his life, and it’s disappointing that many people aren’t willing to recognize him as more than a basketball player. Kyrie is proof that if you go against the left-wing media, they will try to bury you no matter what else you have done. Kyrie was many people’s hero when he bought a house for George Floyd’s family and fully supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but now those same people are calling him “crazy” and “uneducated” for refusing to get vaccinated. It shows both the hypocrisy that exists in today’s political sphere and how quickly people are willing to turn on you if you don’t act in accordance with their political beliefs. 

It is understandable that many people want to see Irving back on the court, as after all he truly is one of the most electrifying players that the game has ever seen. But as many people say, some things are “bigger than basketball.” In America, we pride ourselves on giving our citizens the freedom to make their own decisions regarding what they think is best for them. Kyrie is simply exercising his freedom by refusing the vaccine, and he is also standing up for those who want to exercise said freedom but can’t afford to lose their livelihoods as a result. So are Irving’s actions really selfish if he’s standing up for those who don’t have a voice? For people who prioritize basketball over real-life issues, the answer would be yes. For those who contemplate and understand the bigger picture, Irving is a pioneer who should be thanked for his courage to stand up for what he believes in against the pressures of society.