Irving is not vaccinated. He plays for Brooklyn, and New York City has a vaccination mandate for any public indoor space — restaurants, gyms, and the Barclays Center where the Nets play games (as well as the team’s practice facility, also in Brooklyn). Irving has not practiced with the Nets the past two days with the team back home.
The NBA players union has agreed to no such thing, executive director Michele Roberts told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. (Irving is a member of the NBPA’s executive committee and his voice holds some sway with the union.)
“We’ll see about that,” Roberts said Wednesday. “They’ve been reporting that we’ve agreed that if a player who was not able to play because of his non-vaccination status, they could be docked (pay). We did not agree. The league’s position is that they can. We’ll see. If we get to that point, we’ll see….
“Our position is no,” Roberts said of the league punishing a player for being unvaccinated. “The league’s position is that we don’t need your agreement because the CBA allows that anyway.
“It’s debatable. We’ll see. I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but I’m going to say it’s a bridge we’ll cross, if and when we get there. Right now, we’ve agreed that a player breaks protocols, that he can be disciplined to include some taxing of his comp. But not being vaccinated — because it’s not mandatory — in and of itself should not lead to any discipline.”
That has long been the argument of Irving’s side: If player vaccines are not mandated (the union blocked that idea), then a player can’t be fined or punished for not doing it. This is about the local ordinance, unvaccinated players in other cities — Bradley Beal in Washington, for a high-profile example — can play in their home cities. That double standard due to the New York mandate should not lead to Irving being fined, the argument goes.
There is time for this to get resolved, the Nets’ first home game is on Oct. 24. But, unfortunately, neither Irving nor the Nets are budging on the issue right now. Brooklyn has not yet announced whether it will let Irving be a part-time player, only joining the team for games on the road, or if that is too disruptive.
With Kevin Durant and James Harden on the roster, plus a deep bench of veteran players, the Nets will be able to handle the loss of Irving on the court, and bush off the distraction he causes off it. The Nets are still the favorite in the East.
But Durant and company are not getting to focus on just playing basketball, which is what they wanted this season.