Kyrie Irving has said he decided to remain unvaccinated despite the opportunity to sign a long-term contract with the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn entered a new era when Irving and Kevin Durant joined in 2019, before James Harden was traded from the Houston Rockets. Many made the Nets favourites to win the NBA championship when Durant returned from a long-term injury for 2020-21, however, the incredible trio were rarely all available at the same time. Harden has since been dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics and Jayson Tatum last season.
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) September 26, 2022
As he opted not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Irving was unable to play in home games last season until New York City's vaccine mandate was lifted in March. Vaccine requirements in other cities stopped the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard from playing in certain road games, as well. He played 29 games in 21-22, averaging 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Despite losing out on a reported $100million, Irving will earn $36.5m in 22-23 before potentially becoming a free agent next year. Speaking on Monday, the one-time NBA champion said his decision to remain unvaccinated forced him to turn down a big-money extension with the Nets. "I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision," Irving said. "[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there's a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you're going to be in this league, whether you're going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision."
Brooklyn Nets Point Guard Kyrie Irving on choosing to remain unvaccinated: “I gave up 4 years, $100-something million deciding to be unvaccinated. I had to deal with that real life circumstance of losing my job."pic.twitter.com/CnsCX0dDkw
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Irving revealed that he was expecting to pen a new long-term contract last year. "We were supposed to have all that figured out before training camp last year," Irving said. "And it just didn't happen because of the status of me being vaccinated, unvaccinated. "So, I understood their point and I had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow, honestly. "I felt like I was forced with an ultimatum of whether or not I had a contract or not, whether or not I can be on the team [based on] whether or not I was vaccinated. I was definitely put in that position where I had to make that decision." Irving also admitted that he believes his public image has been negatively affected by his decision to not get vaccinated. "I didn't appreciate how me being unvaccinated, all of a sudden, came to be a stigma within my career that I don't want to play," he said. Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has disputed Irving's take on things, however. "There's no ultimatum being given here," Marks said.
If I can work and be unvaccinated, then all of my brothers and sisters who are also unvaccinated should be able to do the same, without being discriminated against, vilified, or fired. ♾🤞🏾
This enforced Vaccine/Pandemic is one the biggest violations of HUMAN RIGHTS in history.
— Hélà (@KyrieIrving) September 20, 2022
"Again, it goes back to you want people who are reliable, people who are here, and accountable. All of us: staff, players, coaches, you name it. "It's not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That's a completely personal choice. "Two summers ago, when we were talking about contract negotiations, that was pre-city wide mandates that went in. "Once the vaccine mandates came in, you knew how that'd affect playing home games. That's when contract talks stalled. It didn't get to, 'Here's the deal, now take it back'. That never happened."
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