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Boost for unvaccinated NBA star as New York relaxes rules

Kyrie Irving has not played any home games for the Nets this year

Kyrie Irving (file pic).
Kyrie Irving (file pic).
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

KYRIE IRVING will be free to play home games for the Brooklyn Nets after New York authorities on Thursday eased vaccine mandate rules for athletes and performers.

New York mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that rules preventing unvaccinated individuals from playing in home games for New York teams would be scrapped.

NBA superstar Irving, who is unvaccinated, has not played any home games for the Nets this year because of the mandate, even though unvaccinated players from visiting teams are allowed to play in New York.

Adams said the decision to expand the city’s vaccine mandate exemption for athletes and performers was “another step in our city’s economic recovery” that “leveled the playing field” for New Yorkers.

“By expanding an existing exemption, we are simply making sure the rules apply equally to everyone who is a performer, regardless of where they are from,” Adams said.

“The old exemption put our sports teams at a self-imposed competitive disadvantage and was unfair to New York performers.

“Now, with the city in a low-risk environment, we can keep protecting each other, as we continue to move in the right direction and deliver an equitable and inclusive economic recovery.”

The NBA and NBA Players Association (NBPA) welcomed the New York decision, noting that basketball has achieved a 97% vaccination rate and 75% booster rate amongst players, team staff, league staff and referees.

“We support the Mayor’s determination that the old rules treating hometown and visiting players differently no longer made sense, particularly because unvaccinated NBA players will continue to test daily,” the NBA/NBPA joint statement said.

“We applaud the Mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents.”

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While Irving and the Nets are the most high-profile beneficiaries of the decision, the move also removes potential headaches for New York baseball teams ahead of the new season, due to start in April.

The Yankees and Mets both welcomed the decision.

“We appreciate the way the mayor approached this decision with deliberation, understanding, and reliance on the science,” Yankees president Randy Levine said.

– © AFP 2022

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