In 2020, COVID-19 hit the block and stayed a while to let the people know it was here for the long haul. And while much of the world attempted to move forward as if the viral infection didn’t exist, its impact is still felt by people everywhere. From the uptick in remote work to the choices around vaccination, decisions based on the pandemic are real, and NBA star Kyrie Irving is a living testament.
As the league decided how to implement its COVID-19 protocols, a decision from the NBA Player’s Association ruled that the NBA could not make the vaccine mandatory for players. However, staff and players must adhere to state laws and protocols associated with the pandemic. And since Kyrie Irving is a member of the Brooklyn Nets franchise and opposed to the vaccination, New York state protocols determined he was ineligible to play.
According to CBS Sports, any player that decided to go against their local protocols would not play in home games and not be paid for any games missed.
“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” NBA Spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement.
At the time, the 2016 NBA champion would not earn $300,000 per game missed.
“For Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who reportedly isn’t vaccinated, that would cost him $300K a game, per longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein. The same goes for Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins who isn’t vaccinated,” CBS Sports reported in September 2021.
The six-figure loss per game was just the icing on the cake. During the recent media day hosted by the Brooklyn Nets, people learned that Irving not earning his income for the games missed was only the tip of the iceberg.
According to ESPN, Kyrie Irving revealed during media day that he turned down a four-year contract extension estimated at around $100 million for his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million [dollars] deciding to be unvaccinated, and that was the decision,” Irving said Monday, during the media day. “[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.”
The Power Of Choice
Good, bad, or indifferent – decisions come with consequences. And Irving had to live with the results of his actions. Although he was unwavering in his judgment, that doesn’t mean his humanity wasn’t affected by it.
In a past podcast episode of ETC with Kevin Durant, Irving explained the impact his decision to remain unvaccinated had on him last season.
“There was nothing to lose, you know? It was only the journey to enjoy at that point because I was sitting at home and, I don’t even want to say sitting at home,” Irving said on the podcast episode. “I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”
“But I never felt like myself throughout the season because I’m usually sustaining a level of growth throughout the year instead of trying to catch up with everybody that’s been playing for four or five months,” he added. “They’ve been at it every day since October or September.”
The Changing Of Tides
Although Irving went through his personal journey of determining what sitting out meant for him, New York mandates eventually loosened, and Irving was able to play at home games.
For the 2022-2023 NBA season, the league released its COVID-19 policy, indicating that players are not required to receive the vaccine. However, all unvaccinated players must test weekly to remain eligible to play.
With New York mandates remaining loose around vaccination status, it appears Irving will be eligible to play in home games as long as he adheres to the leagues’ protocols.
Regarding what’s next for the superstar’s contract, Irving picked up a $36.5 million player option and will be a free agent next summer.