New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he will not make an exception for Kyrie Irving to play home games for the Brooklyn Nets as the city begins to roll back COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
"Listen, I want Kyrie on the court. I would do anything to get that ring. So badly, I want it. But there's so much at stake here. I spoke with the owner of the team. We want to find a way to get Kyrie on the court, but this is a bigger issue," Adams said Monday on CNBC. "I can't have my city closed down again. It would send the wrong message just to have an exception for one player when we're telling countless number of New York City employees 'If you don't follow the rules, you won't be able to be employed.' That's not the right thing to do."
New York City is planning to eliminate vaccination requirements for indoor facilities such as sports arenas and restaurants starting March 7. However, mandates for large employers in the city will remain in place, meaning Irving will still not be able to play for the Nets in New York for the time being.
Under the relaxed rules, he would be able to enter Barclays Center as a spectator.
Adams acknowledged the current rules, which allow unvaccinated non-New York athletes to play in the city but not unvaccinated residents, put the Nets at a disadvantage.
"I don't know who thought of putting such a ridiculous rule in place, of [unvaccinated] away teams can come and play, when our teams from New York [can't]," Adams said. "But these are the rules and I have to follow the rules. If I don't, I'm going to open the door that is sending the wrong message to everyday employees."
Irving has steadfastly refused to undergo COVID-19 vaccination despite the issue causing him to miss numerous games—and paychecks—as a result. The Nets have been one of the NBA's most disappointing teams this season, thanks in large part to Irving's absence, which in turn arguably helped push James Harden over the edge to request a midseason trade to Philadelphia.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has also said New York's current rules do not make sense as it pertains to ensuring the health and safety of players and spectators.
No timetable for removing the mandate impacting Irving has been set.