NBA won’t let Nets play unvaccinated Kyrie Irving at home, accept fines
The Nets could theoretically allow unvaccinated Kyrie Irving to play Brooklyn home games in defiance of New York City’s mandate.
The fines, as highlighted by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, would top out at a relatively measly $5,000 per violation. For perspective, the Nets planned to pay Irving more than $35 million to play all their games this season. Isn’t an additional $5,000 per home game worth having the highly talented guard whose star teammates want him on the court and who makes the Nets a feared championship contender?
But the NBA won’t allow it.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
To be clear on the hypothetical ability for a team to pay a fine for an unvaccinated player to play in a marketplace that local ordinances forbid: NBA memo to organizations on September 1 says that teams must follow local laws and players who don't comply won't be able to play.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2022
The players’ union fought off a vaccine mandate from the league. This is effectively a workaround in places with their own vaccine requirements, no matter how tepidly those requirements are enforced. The NBA is forcing teams and players to follow the mandate, even if they’d prefer to accept the consequences of violating it.
Did the union approve of this stance? Then-National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the union hadn’t agreed to players getting their pay docked for missing games due to local vaccine mandates after the NBA announced their pay would be docked. Perhaps, the union could challenge this ruling, too.
For now, the clearest path to Irving playing home games is him getting a generally safe vaccine that has proven effective at reducing severe outcomes from and transmission of coronavirus.