(Photo: Made on Canva by Max Mwaniki, The Puma Prensa)
by Max Mwaniki, web editor
Recently, several US states have been considering the idea of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. A vaccine mandate means that people are required to be vaccinated if they want to do certain things like work, travel, go to school, go to concerts, etc. If not, then they may be denied the right to participate in said activities. When it comes to the NBA, the majority of the players are not required to be vaccinated unless that state where the team resides has a vaccine mandate. That is the case for star point guard Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets.
On Aug. 20, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio updated the vaccine mandate to require indoor sports teams to be vaccinated. This means that any indoor sports team that resides in New York City must ensure each and every one of its players has received a vaccination.
Irving signed with the Brooklyn Nets on July 7, 2019, before the mayor’s mandate. Initially, when asked about being vaccinated, Irving chose not to state his vaccination status saying, “I like to keep that stuff private. I am a human being first and obviously living in this public sphere…I would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team going forward.” Then he refused to answer any other questions on the topic during the Nets 2021 Media Day on Sept. 27. This was the only news fans and media members got on Irving returning to play and his stance on vaccination until he went on Oct. 13 during an Instagram live, where he stated that he does not want to take the vaccine, explained why and clarified that he was not retiring.
Everyone has the right to deny the vaccine.Whether someone decides to take it is a personal choice. The problem with this controversy is not the fact he is not comfortable with taking the vaccine; it is with the content of his response. Irving is being way too modest and, at the same time, fans are over-exaggerating the severity of the situation and fabricating facts that are not true. During the Instagram live he continued to call himself “just a hooper,” which is completely wrong. The reality of the is that once someone gains a certain level of fame or wealth, that person becomes a figure whose opinions, actions and life matter to millions of people, which especially applies to Irving because he has used his platform to speak out on sensitive and important topics like Black Live Matter, mental illness, and LGBTQ issues. Because he has made such use of his platform in the past, basketball fans especially pay close attention to his stance on vaccination. On top of that, according to an article posted by Shams Charania on The Athletic, he said he wants to be a voice for the voiceless, which completely contradicts him being “just a hooper.”
At the core of this situation, Irving is simply choosing to not take the vaccine and is facing the repercussions that come with that decision. It is a straightforward decision that led to him losing his deal with the Nets, putting him in the spotlight. As a public figure and an NBA star, the things he says and does are always going to be twisted. In Kyrie Irving’s case, his words were twisted by media and fans to promote things like anti-vaccination.
Downplaying the person he has become playing basketball at the highest level while speaking out on important topics means he’s a lot more than “just a hooper.’