Eric Adams calls barring Kyrie Irving from Barclays ‘unfair,’ won’t change rule

Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday agreed with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who said it “doesn’t quite make sense” that Nets star Kyrie Irving can’t play at Barclays Center while visiting players who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 can — but cautioned changing the rule might send “the wrong message.”

Following a press conference about the city’s 2023 budget, Adams told reporters he was “struggling” with the aspect of the municipal vaccine regulation that allows away players inside sports venues but bars athletes who live in the five boroughs from entering their hometown arenas, while declining to reveal if he would reform it.

“First of all, I think the rule’s unfair. I believe that we are saying to out-of-town athletes that they can come in and not be vaccinated, yet New York athletes do have to be vaccinated,” Adams said at City Hall in response to a reporter’s question about Silver’s comments.

“I think it’s unfair,” the mayor said.

Adams joked that a Boston Celtics fan must have created the rule, while also expressing concern that adjusting it would send “mixed messages.”

Eric Adams
Mayor Adams said he thinks the rule that lets unvaccinated visiting players play in NYC is unfair but he is worried about sending “the wrong message” if he makes a change to the city’s vaccine mandate.
Paul Martinka

“I am really, really leery about sending the wrong message. Having this city close down again keeps me up at night, and the message was put in place, the rule was put in place, to start changing it now I think it would send mixed messages,” he said.

“I’m struggling with this, just to be honest with you,” the mayor added.

Pressed by a reporter to specify if he would amend the mandate, which he inherited from his predecessor but controls, Adams laughed and moved on to the next question.

Under New York City’s “Key to NYC” program — announced last summer by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and maintained by Adams — proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter many kinds of indoor settings, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters and sports come.

kyrie irving
Adams joked that a Boston Celtics fan must have created the vax rule, but is concerned adjusting it would send “mixed messages.”
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But exempted from the rule are members of professional sports teams who do not live in New York City as well as non-resident performing artists.

To comply with the regulation, Irving — a 29-year-old seven-time NBA All-Star who has not received a COVID-19 vaccine — doesn’t play in his team’s home games, held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Nets beginning in December began allowing Irving to play in Nets road games, after initially prohibiting him from acting as a part-time player.

Earlier Wednesday, Silver questioned the logic behind the component of the vaccine mandate that prohibits Irving from playing at more than half the team’s games.

“This law in New York, the oddity of it to me, is that it only applies to home players,” Silver said on ESPN’s “Get Up.”

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
NBAE via Getty Images
Kyrie Irving
Irving joined the Nets in a part-time capacity for road games in December.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who is unvaccinated can play in Barclays but the home player can’t,” he added. “To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.”

After he stressed the importance of getting inoculated against COVID-19, Silver floated the possibility of de Blasio’s successor amending the city’s rules.

“So while, again, my personal view is people should get vaccinated and boosted, I can imagine a scenario where Brooklyn, as part of New York City, with a new mayor now who wasn’t in place, Eric Adams, when that original ordinance was put into place, I could see him deciding to change along the way and say it’s no longer necessary to have a mandatory vaccination requirement, as I said, particularly one that only affects home players,” he said.

Along with the indoor setting vaccine mandate, de Blasio enacted compulsory COVID-19 vaccines for private-sector workers. That rule took effect Dec. 27, and Adams announced days later he is keeping it in place.

Silver’s comments come after the Nets’ general manager last week said he is “optimistic” the star guard will soon be permitted to play in home games.

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