Adam Silver staying out of Kyrie Irving's COVID vaccine saga: 'This is not a league issue'

·4 min read

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made his feelings known about players receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday in his annual preseason news conference, but he’s staying out of Kyrie Irving’s saga with the Brooklyn Nets and New York City.

That has nothing to do with him.

“This is between Irving and New York City right now,” Silver said. “This is not a league issue … but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated.”

Adam Silver: ‘I hope that Kyrie … ultimately decides to get vaccinated’

Irving is still the only player in the NBA who currently can’t play with his team due to a coronavirus vaccine mandate. New York City requires that everyone be vaccinated in order to enter public spaces like the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden. San Francisco and Los Angeles have implemented similar mandates (although the LA one won't apply to Staples Center).

As Irving is still unvaccinated, he would only be eligible to play for the Nets on the road — though the team has said that he can’t participate at all until he either gets vaccinated or the mandate is lifted.

Irving broke his silence on the issue last week on an Instagram Live session, and said he’s standing up for those who have lost their jobs by refusing to get the free and safe vaccine — which has been administered millions of times around the globe already. Irving, an avid conspiracy theorist, has also reportedly been pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories within league circles.

Though the league around 96% vaccinated already, Irving isn’t the lone holdout. There are others, including Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, Mavericks guard Trey Burke and more, who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine yet.

Those teams, however, aren’t under a local mandate — something Silver said the league will respect.

"I'm not sure if fair is the right way to approach it because there's nothing fair about this virus," Silver said, via ESPN. "It's indiscriminate in terms of who it impacts, and I think it's perfectly appropriate that New York and other cities have passed laws that require people who both work and visit arenas to be vaccinated. That seems to be a responsible public health decision made by those locales, and those are the circumstances in which the Nets find themselves operating.

"I accept that. I think that we understand as a league we have to play the cards that are dealt, just in the same way there are variations from market to market. I know there are players in some markets who would prefer that their local governments pass ordinances requiring that all the fans be vaccinated who are in the buildings with them.

"We'll see how it plays out. I mean, frankly I hope that Kyrie sort of — despite how strongly he feels about the vaccination — ultimately decides to get vaccinated because I'd love to see him play basketball this season, and I'd love to see the Brooklyn Nets have their full complement of players on the floor."

Silver would have ‘preferred’ NBA had a vaccine mandate

Something that could have made this saga much easier for the NBA is if it would have implemented a vaccine mandate for players.

The players association, however, struck a deal with the league that didn’t require a mandate. Officials, coaches, staff members and others involved with the NBA all do have to be vaccinated.

Silver said he wishes that the NBPA would have agreed to vaccinations, both to make things safer for everyone and to prevent the issue from becoming an “adversarial” one like it is now.

"I won't try to speak for [the NBPA], other than the view that some players had, I think — including maybe some players who are vaccinated — that it should be an individual choice among the players," Silver said, via ESPN. "I would have preferred that ultimately that the players association agreed to mandatory vaccinations. The officials union agreed to mandatory vaccinations, despite opposition from some of their members.

“But ultimately I think we could have avoided a lot of the adversarial nature of these issues for our players. It's not so much with the league. I think that gets confused in some cases.”

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