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Kyrie Irving on his vaccine-mandate problems: ‘Life of a martyr, bro’

Nets star Kyrie Irving

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Kyrie Irving of Brooklyn Nets enters the court ahead of NBA playoffs game between Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn of New York City, United States on April 25, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Because of his decision not to get vaccinated and New York City’s vaccine mandate, Nets star Kyrie Irving was not allowed to play Brooklyn home games for a bulk of the season. He lost nearly $14 million in salary. He had to deal with the mental anguish of not knowing whether he’d get traded or released. Though Irving was eventually given an exemption to the mandate as a professional athlete, the Nets never jelled and – in a historic disapointment for a preseason championship favorite – got swept in the first round.

Irving on “The ETCs with Kevin Durant” podcast:

Just had to sit in that hot seat for a little bit and deal with it, man. Life of a martyr, bro.

The “martyr” comment might have been at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It wouldn’t have been Irving’s only such quip on the podcast. But when he made another while sounding earnest later in episode – “My life off the court, bro, is really about making conspiracy theories facts” – he clarified that he was joking.

Irving certainly doesn’t fit the first definition of “martyr,” which requires dying. The second definition of “a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle”? That’s in the eye of the beholder. Irving certainly made sacrifices of great value – nearly $14 million, a better chance at a championship. But, despite ample opportunity, he never clearly explained the the principle behind his decision (though left clues).

Of course, Irving isn’t required to explain his stance. Medical care is generally a personal decision. Except when New York City says you can’t work without getting vaccinated. Though Irving is an unsympathetic figure, it’s at least understandable why he and others adversely affected by the mandate feel unfairly punished.

But martyred? That’s some rhetoric.