Adam Silver Talks Kyrie Irving, NYC COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate: 'Not a League Issue'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVOctober 19, 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2020, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference in Chicago. With the pandemic still a major issue and concern, Silver believes the league has done all it can to prepare for the new season, which starts Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/David Banks, File)
AP Photo/David Banks, File

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hopes Kyrie Irving gets vaccinated and prefers there to be a mandate requiring vaccinations for all players, but he doesn't see the Brooklyn Nets star's inability to take the court for home games as a "league issue."

Tim Bontemps of ESPN shared some of Silver's quotes from his annual preseason news conference:

"I won't try to speak for [the NBPA], other than the view that some players had, I think -- including maybe some players who are vaccinated -- that it should be an individual choice among the players.
"I would have preferred that ultimately that the players' association agreed to mandatory vaccinations. The officials union agreed to mandatory vaccinations, despite opposition from some of their members. But ultimately, I think we could have avoided a lot of the adversarial nature of these issues for our players. It's not so much with the league. I think that gets confused in some cases."

Silver also spoke specifically about Irving, who is unable to play in home games because of local mandates in New York. The seven-time All-Star is the only player impacted by the mandates since every member of the New York Knicks is vaccinated and Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors recently got the vaccine to comply with San Francisco's rules.

"This is between Irving and New York City right now," Silver said. "This is not a league issue ... but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated."

The mandates only apply to players for the home teams, as unvaccinated visitors can still take the court.

"We'll see how it plays out," Silver said. "I mean, frankly, I hope that Kyrie sort of—despite how strongly he feels about the vaccination—ultimately decides to get vaccinated, because I'd love to see him play basketball this season, and I'd love to see the Brooklyn Nets have their full complement of players on the floor."

While there was an avenue for Irving to still play road games for the Nets even if he remained unvaccinated, general manager Sean Marks announced he would not play for the team until he could fully participate this season.

The Nets still have Kevin Durant and James Harden as two of the best players in the league, but their chances at dethroning the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference or defeating one of the Western Conference's best teams in the NBA Finals would be much greater with Irving on the floor.

As for Irving's motivation, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported he is not getting vaccinated as a way to support those who have lost jobs because of mandates.

That Silver said he preferred if every player was vaccinated when discussing Irving and the overall issue was notable since ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes reported in September that was what the league wanted.

However, the NBA's players association saw such mandates as a "non-starter" in negotiations.


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