NEW YORK — Due to New York City’s COVID-19 regulations, Kyrie Irving had to participate in Media Day remotely on Monday. While 15 of his Brooklyn Nets teammates sat at a podium at Barclays Center, the assembled reporters had to talk to Irving through a screen.
Irving’s Zoom lighting wasn’t great, but nothing could obscure the elephant in the room. The city requires that every Nets player must have had at least one vaccine dose to enter the arena or practice facility, in the absence of a religious or medical exemption. Irving has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman reported.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said last week that the city requirements would not be a hindrance to the team. If Irving is unvaccinated and doesn’t get an exemption, however, he will not be able to practice with the Nets in Brooklyn or play in home games.
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Sitting in front of a bookshelf, Irving said that, “living in this public sphere, it’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie.” But he did not intend to answer them. When directly asked if he is vaccinated or will comply by city requirements by the time training camp is over, Irving appealed to his right to privacy.
“I appreciate your question, bro,” Irving said. “Honestly, I like to keep that stuff private, man.” He said he would “handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan. So, you know, obviously I’m not able to be present there today. But that doesn’t mean that I’m putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team.”
He then warned that, if anybody had further questions on the subject, “it’ll be the same response.”
Irving’s aunt, Tyki, recently told Rolling Stone that his stance is “not religious-based, it’s moral-based.” Tyki also referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, as “Dr. False-y.” Rolling Stone reported that Irving has recently liked Instagram posts from an anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist. Reporters didn’t ask Irving about any of this, but one asked why he didn’t want to clear anything up.
“Please respect my privacy,” he responded. “Next question.”
Irving spoke glowingly about making “a few runs at this championship” in Brooklyn. He said he wants to “enjoy a lot of smiles and a lot of good times” with his teammates and “create a future together.” This cheery stuff is par for the course on the most optimistic day on the NBA calendar, but his tone shifted when asked about playing in home games this season.
“Again, I would like to keep all that private,” Irving said. “Please just respect my privacy. Like, at all the questions kind of leading into what’s happening, you know, just, please, everything will be released at a new date, once we get this cleared up. But as of right now, just please respect my privacy regarding anything on home games, what’s happening, vaccination. Please.”
Irving has put his teammates in the uncomfortable position of having to answer for him. A reporter asked Bruce Brown and Joe Harris, seated side-by-side at the podium, if they were concerned about Irving’s availability and if they had talked to Irving about the vaccine. Brown and Harris looked at each other, neither one enthusiastic about taking the question. There was some laughter in the room. Four seconds passed before Brown said he has no concerns.
“Yeah, I don’t have any concerns, either,” Harris said. “And no, I haven’t talked to him about the vaccine.”
Asked if he is concerned about Irving’s availability, Kevin Durant simply said, “No.” Neither Durant nor any Nets player directly said that he expects Irving to get vaccinated. Rather than engaging with the possibility that Irving would only be able to play on the road, everyone essentially acted as if this whole thing is no big deal.
“That’s on Kyrie and that’s his personal decision, what he does,” Durant said. “It’s not on us to speculate what may happen, but we trust in Kyrie and I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”
A few minutes earlier, David Letterman, posing as a reporter for “The Basketball Digest,” had asked Durant if playing against the Pelicans makes him giggle. Durant giggled as he said, “Yeah.” Media Day is always a bit of a farce, but it’s usually a harmless one. Irving’s press conference was a different kind of ridiculous. In the middle of the Zoom session, he started broadcasting on Instagram Live, and he returned to the stream after it was over. He walked outside, laughing as he told viewers that he hopes they enjoyed their snippet of Media Day. Then, with a straight face, Irving said, “I don’t want to create any more drama. That’s not what I’m here for.”