As the game clock ticked down late in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s matinee at the Barclays Center between the Brooklyn Nets and visiting New York Knicks, Kyrie Irving, his fiancee Marlene “Golden” Wilkerson and a male accompanying the pair, were escorted by arena personnel to seats opposite the Nets’ bench.
Irving was there as a spectator and not in uniform because of the now nonsensical New York City COVID-19 mandate that states, “Workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business must show proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.” But the unequal policy allows unvaccinated players on opposing teams to play at the Barclays and Madison Square Garden.
What elevates this level of absurdity is non-employees, which includes spectators and diners for example, can enter public facilities unvaccinated and maskless as the ban that also excluded them was lifted as of March 7. Not only did Irving attend his team’s game versus the Knicks, he was at the Barclays on Saturday night to watch his alma mater Duke fall to Virginia Tech 82-67 in the ACC championship game.
“We’re all confused,” said Nets forward Kevin Durant sitting at the Nets’ post game podium. On Monday he was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Week 21 after averaging 30.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists in leading his team to a 3-0 record. The honor comes less than two weeks after Durant returned to the court on March 3 from a MCL strain in his left knee sustained Jan. 15.
“Pretty much everybody in the world is confused at this point,” Durant noted, following a 53-point performance in a 110-107 win for Brooklyn. “Early on in the season, people didn’t understand what was going on, but now, it just looks stupid—Eric [Mayor Eric Adams], you gotta figure this out.”
Adams responded by suggesting Irving end the controversy by simply getting vaccinated. Many city residents agree with Durant. They have expressed their opposition to the mandate on radio call-in shows, social media and other platforms. In addition to the hypocrisy, the Nets’ organization was fined $50,000 by the NBA on Monday for violating the local New York City for allowing Irving to enter the team’s locker room.
The Nets were 35-33, the No. 8 seed in the East when they faced the Orlando Magic on the road on Tuesday. They were at home to play the Dallas Mavericks last night and will be at Barclays tomorrow (Portland Trail Blazers) and Monday (Utah Jazz). The next game Irving will be eligible to play will be next Wednesday on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies.