Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving isn’t the only New York City athlete who will potentially miss home games.
With Major League Baseball settling their labor strife last Thursday, with the players and owners agreeing to a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, ending the latter’s lockout, a full 162-game schedule has been salvaged.
But in New York City, the COVID-19 mandate that has prevented the unvaccinated Irving from playing home games at the Barclays Center, as well as Madison Square, will also apply to Yankees and Mets players who have yet to receive jabs of the vaccine. Mayor Eric Adams has eased some of the restrictions that were instituted under his predecessor, former city mayor Bill de Blasio, but has been resistant, even in the face of strong opposition from local residents, to move off his currently unwavering position that disallows those who are technically employed within the five boroughs to work in large public venues.
Members of New York City professional teams fall under this category. The mandate reads: “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.”
Opening Day in the Bronx for the Yankees is April 7, when they begin a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The Mets’ first game in Queens at Citi Field is scheduled for April 15 after they start with seven straight games on the road, a four-game series with the Washington Nationals and three versus the Philadelphia Phillies. The contradiction is that unvaccinated visiting players are not subject to the ban.
Adams has frequently referenced the 1,430 city workers who were fired on Feb. 11—the imposed deadline—for failing to take the vaccine and comply with the city government’s mandates as reason to not consider lifting the in-person order. However, the first-term mayor and former Brooklyn borough president, a self-proclaimed ardent Mets fan, also must weigh economic and political ramifications. Sports teams are economic drivers and fans comprise a substantial voting bloc.
For instance, an early Nets playoff exit as a result of Irving’s absence could hurt establishments such as restaurants and bars surrounding the Barclays Center. Irving set a Nets franchise record on Tuesday night in Orlando versus the Magic scoring a remarkable 60 points.