Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said Wednesday that he is unvaccinated against Covid-19, a day after his team said the seven-time All-Star would not be allowed to begin play this season because of his status.
Irving had until now refused to publicly disclose his vaccination status, but on Tuesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks said he would not play or practice with the team until he met eligibility requirements.
The NBA had warned the Nets as well as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors that new Covid-19 policies set by local governments will prohibit any unvaccinated player from playing in home games in New York City and San Francisco.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” Marks said.
In the Instagram Live video, Irving said that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies,” and that his decision was not politically motivated.
“What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine?” Irving said. “This wasn’t an issue before the season started. This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family.”
Irving’s playing status had been in doubt
On Friday, a New York City Hall official told CNN that Irving would be allowed to practice at the team’s facility but will not be eligible to play in the Nets’ home games at Barclays Center due to the city’s vaccine mandate.
But the team issued its ultimatum Tuesday, saying Irving would not be able to play any games for the Nets.
“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” Marks said. “Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction,” he said.
“You think I really want to give up my dream to go after a championship?” Irving said in the video Wednesday. “Do you think I really just want to give up my job? You think I really just want to sit at home and not go after the things with my teammates that I’ve been able to grow with, to learn with?”
Irving said he has no intentions to retire. “Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated,” he said.
The Nets open their 2021-22 season on the road against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
CNN’s Jill Martin, Jacob Lev, Jack Bantock and Ben Church contributed to this report.