Protesters storm NBA arena over vaccine mandate blocking Brooklyn Nets star player

Seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving is banned from playing with the Brooklyn Nets because of his refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Rachel Sharp
Monday 25 October 2021 16:35
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Protesters chant “Let Kyrie play” outside the arena in Brooklyn

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Protesters stormed an arena in New York City in support of Brooklyn Nets’ star player Kyrie Irving, who has been banned from games because of his refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Video shows a group of demonstrators pushing their way through metal barricades outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday ahead of the Nets’ home opener against the Charlotte Hornets.

Security staff at the venue are seen trying to push the protesters back away from the doors, while chants of “Let Kyrie play” ring out.

The arena was forced to briefly go into lockdown until the situation was brought under control, a spokesperson for the Barclays Center told The Independent.

“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors yesterday in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” they said.

“Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”

An NYPD spokesperson confirmed to The Independent that no arrests were made over the altercation.

Earlier this month, the Nets announced that Mr Irving would not be allowed to play or practice with the team because he is not vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Kyrie’s made it clear that he has a choice in this matter and it’s ultimately going to be up to him what he decides,” said general manager Sean Marks at the time.

“We respect the fact that he has a choice, he can make his own and right now what’s best for the organization is the path that we’re taking.”

In New York City, anyone attending events at indoor venues must have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, meaning Mr Irving cannot participate in his team’s 41 home matches at the Barclays Center, as well as the New York Knicks’ Madison Square Garden.

There had been speculation that the seven-time All Star would still play at away games where there is no mandate in place.

But Mr Marks said the team had decided not to allow Mr Irving to participate in any games.

“Currently, the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability,” he said.

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice.”

The NBA does not have a vaccine mandate for its players but unvaccinated athletes are subject to regular testing and Covid-19 protocols.

Players who are unable to play because of their vaccination status will not be paid for the games they miss.

Meanwhile, most other NBA staff members including coaches, medical personnel and referees are required to be fully vaccinated.

Kyrie Irving says he believes “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies”

Mr Irving had initially refused to speak out about his vaccination status, saying at a pre-season press briefing that it was a “private” matter.

After his ban was announced by the Nets, he released a video on Instagram speaking about his decision.

Mr Irving said he was not driven by politics but by the belief that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies”.

“I’m standing with all those that believe what is right. Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves,” he said.

The Nets star hit out at vaccine mandates which he said are costing people their livelihoods.

“Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, it’s sad to see. People are losing jobs to mandates,” he said.

He added: “You think I really want to give up my dream to go after a championship?

“Do you think I really just want to give up my job? You think I really just want to sit at home and not go after the things with my teammates that I’ve been able to grow with, to learn with?”

Mr Irving’s decision seems to have divided opinion among both fans and fellow athletes.

The Nets lost 11-95 against the Hornets Sunday in the absence of the star player.

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