What the Brooklyn Nets are doing is ridiculous.
When the Omicron wave descended upon America in December, their organization was hit hard. It was hit so hard in fact, that they decided to make a logical move and introduce an unvaccinated player, Kyrie Irving, into this environment. He’s not the only unvaccinated player competing in professional sports, but his situation is different. According to the “Key to NYC,” executive order, non-vaccinated locals are not permitted to participate in indoor activities such as a professional basketball game.
Because of the law, the Nets originally made a sound decision to not play Irving at all this season, even though he could’ve played in road games. But during their December COVID outbreak they changed their minds and allowed Irving to become one of the most unique part-time employees you’ll ever see.
However, the Nets might not have to keep up with this nonsense. The New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy reported on Wednesday that the penalty for not abiding by these rules is a progressive penalty that starts at $1,000 and escalates to $5,000 per offense.
By comparison, during the Kings of Comedy tour of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the show was fined $7,500 for smoking cigars inside arenas. What did they do about it? They paid the fine in advance of every show.
The Nets might as well do the same thing. Kyrie Irving and the Nets organization both have much more money than Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and the late Bernie Mac had at the turn of the millennium. COVID is obviously more serious than smoking cigars in a locker room, but by allowing him on the team at all the Nets are already putting the most vulnerable people at risk — employees of the Brooklyn Nets.
From players to security, the every day staffers are the people most at risk of contracting something from Irving. They’re in the locker room, on the plane and bus, and at the practice facility. “Key to NYC,” did not even forbid Irving from entering the Nets’ practice facility, which is in Brooklyn. The cat is already out of the bag, so just pay the fine, or make him pay it, and put him on the court.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that the NBA did send out a memo in September, saying that local laws must be followed and players who don’t abide by them won’t be allowed to play. But, by paying the fine the Nets and Irving would be kind of following the rules. It’s not like the NYPD would forbid Irving from entering Barclays Center. This is just a parking ticket. If it’s not a tow zone you can park wherever you want if you pay the fine promptly.
We’ve come down hard on Irving for not getting the vaccine, and rightfully so. Receiving the COVID vaccine and booster is the intelligent thing to do. The fact that there is medicine that has been approved by health organizations all over the world to fight a once in a generation pandemic, and that medicine has turned into a political issue is but one example of how this planet is a hellscape. The Nets have already shown how they feel about setting an example for COVID prudence by allowing an unvaccinated Irving on a team that was in the middle of a COVID outbreak.
Irving on the floor has already begun to pay dividends. The Chicago Bulls are the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, and with Irving on the floor on Wednesday night, the Nets throttled the Bulls 138-112 on national television. Of course it would be a bad look for the Nets, and for the NBA, for a fine to be paid to allow Irving to play, but it can’t look worse than it already does. If Irving is going to be allowed to play at all for the Brooklyn Nets, it’s best for all parties involved if he plays all of the time.