Kyrie Irving's fans held a protest in New York City on Sunday morning to support the NBA star's public opposition to being forced to get vaccinated against COVID to continue playing professionally. Protesters and NBA fans swarmed the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Irving's team, the Brooklyn Nets play their games. As they marched, the basketball fans and protesters changed, "Stand with Kyrie!"
According to Fox News, the 29 year old became ineligible to play home games in Brooklyn after he refused to get the COVID vaccine, which is a violation of New York City's mandate. NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN on Monday that he would have "preferred" that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association had come to an agreement over a vaccine mandate to avoid it becoming an "adversarial" issue among its professional basketball players.
"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 during a virtual annual preseason news conference.
"This is between Irving and New York City right now. This is not a league issue ... but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated."
"I am doing what's best for me. I know the consequences here and if it means that I'm judged and demonized for that, that's just what it is," Irving said earlier this month when news broke out that he is no longer eligible to play in home games due to the New York City vaccine mandate, The Guardian reported. "That's the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate."
Tired of the restrictions the New York City government has brought upon its people, NBA fans took to the streets on Sunday to show their support to Irving. John Matland was one of the organizers of the protest who described the movement as a "widely diverse group" that had united with the goal of preventing what they believe is an infringement of their personal liberties. About 1,000 descended on Times Square last Saturday for a "Broadway Rally for Freedom" to protest New York City's vaccine mandate.
Despite the protest on Sunday, Barclays Center said that the scheduled game went ahead according to plan. While it "briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena," NBA fans were still able to enter the building and attend the game.
CBS News reported that the protests escalated at one point, with some protesters breaking through the barricades set up by security. One protester picked up a barricade and threw it at a security officer. The security team was later able to get the protests under control and proceed with letting fans inside the building to watch the scheduled game.