NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving says he does not care what the outside world thinks about his decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccination — and is steadfast in his belief that he made the “right decision for me.”
“I can really say that I stood firm on what I believed in, what I wanted to do with my body,” Irving said after the Nets practiced Friday. “I think that should be not just an American right, I think that should be a human right.”
Irving’s vaccination status has been a topic of conversation ever since New York City’s mandate requiring the shot took effect before the start of the NBA season. Irving, who repeatedly made it clear that he would not be getting the vaccine, wasn’t with the Nets to start the season because they didn’t want to accommodate him as a part-time player. The organization reversed course after a teamwide COVID outbreak in December, and Irving made his season debut in a Jan. 5 win over the Indiana Pacers.
For two-plus months, Irving was able to play only in road games before New York Mayor Eric Adams rolled back the city’s vaccination requirement for professional athletes and performers at the end of March.
Irving’s response came after he was asked what his message would be to people who have followed his story — specifically those who acknowledge that he had every right to take the stance he took but say his choice put the team in a much less advantageous position, especially as the playoffs begin. The Nets come into their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Boston Celtics as the seventh seed following a regular season in which Irving’s vaccination status hung over the organization.
“I can’t address everybody, but as we move forward in time I know that I made the right decision for me,” Irving said.
When asked if he felt he had something to prove in the postseason after the way many within the team stood up for him, Irving said he appreciates the support he received within the organization.
“It’s a great feeling when you know during uncomfortable times you can really lean in on different individuals despite their role in different sectors or different places in our organization or things that they stand for,” Irving said. “And some people stood by me in public, some people stood by me in private and I’m OK with both. Some people disagree with me in public, some people disagree with me in private. It doesn’t really bother me as much as it did in the beginning of the season, because everything was just so new.”
Irving said he was aware of all the commentary being directed his way because of his decision.
“I heard everything,” he said. “I was called so many different names. … It was part of a struggle of mine to look at the season, a game that I love — my job, I can’t even keep calling it a game, it’s my job — [for] that to be stripped away based on a mandate or something that was in place.”