Kyrie Irving said Wednesday that he did not want to lose his salary or a chance to compete for a championship with the Brooklyn Nets, but that he was doing “what is best for me” by refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Nets decided Tuesday that Irving would not be with the team because he is ineligible to play at home, where a New York mandate requires professional athletes on one of the city’s teams to be vaccinated to practice or play in public places.
Speaking on Instagram Live, Irving said that he loved basketball and that he was not going to retire.
“I’m doing what’s best for me. I know the consequences here and if that means I’m judged and demonized for it, that’s what it is,” Irving said. “That is the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream for this mandate.”
Irving could have practiced with the Nets and played games outside of New York. The Nets will pay him for that, but he’s giving up about half his $ 35 million salary by missing home games.
“So what? It’s not about the money,” Irving said. “It’s not always about the money. It’s about choosing what’s best for you. Do you think I really want to lose money?”
Irving said he was supportive of people who were and were not vaccinated and expressed his appreciation for the doctors. The All-Star guard did not give any indication that he was against being vaccinated, only that he was deciding not to.
“Again, I’m going to repeat this. It’s not about the Nets, it’s not about the organization, it’s not about the NBA, it’s not about politics,” Irving said. “It is not just one thing.
“It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”
Irving has not spoken to reporters since the Nets’ media day on Sept. 27, when he appeared via Zoom and asked for privacy when asked about his vaccination status.
The Nets are championship contenders, and Irving said he didn’t want to miss out on his opportunity with them. General manager Sean Marks said the team would be happy to welcome Irving under the right circumstances, and Irving made it clear that he would play again.
“No, I’m not going to retire and no, I’m not going to leave this game like that,” Irving said. “There is still much more work to be done and there are still many other (young people) to inspire, because I know they want to be better than me.”