I know this is March Madness and NFL Free Agency season, but the NBA Playoffs start in less than 30 days. That last, and most entertaining, mile of the NBA season, but maximum entertainment value is only achieved if all of the stars are playing. That appears to still be in jeopardy with Kyrie Irving still not fully eligible to play for the Brooklyn Nets.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave a briefing yesterday to announce that masking at day care facilities will be optional for 2-to-4-year olds. A word he kept using in this briefing was “layers.” His administration will be peeling back COVID restrictions layer by layer, and this particular one is being removed following data that positivity rates remained low in the schools after the mask mandate was removed in K-12.
Inevitably, the question came up, as to when is he going to peel back the layer that is the private sector employment vaccine mandate, especially in regards to professional sports teams. His response: “Baseball, basketball, businesses, all of those things they have to wait until that layer comes. Right now, we’re just announcing our 2-to-4-.year olds.”
Like Mayor Adams said at one point in the briefing, COVID is an unprecedented situation, and he also said that most businesses are happy with the vaccine mandates because it allowed their employees to come back to the office. All Irving has to do is get the COVID vaccine, and he wouldn’t be “frustrated,” about still not being able to play in home games, per Kevin Durant. He would be on the court, and the Nets would not be the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, I do understand Irving’s frustrations. For one, he has actually been able to come to work for the entire season. New York City of course has no jurisdiction on whether or not Irving can play in Boston, Houston, or anywhere else in the United States, but he’s not actually barred from the Nets facilities. Irving has been participating in Nets practices — you know, a major part of going to work as a professional basketball player.
In February, New York’s recreational indoor vaccine mandate was lifted. That means unvaccinated people are free to go to health clubs, coffee shops, movie theaters, and even basketball games. Irving was recently in attendance at two basketball games — both at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. One was a Duke ACC Tournament game, and the other was the Nets’ game against the New York Knicks early last week. He is not allowed to play though because New York’s private sector employee vaccine mandate is still law. Because of that, the NBA fined the Nets $50,000 because Irving went into the locker room during the Knicks game, which is technically a violation of local law, and the NBA will punish any franchise that doesn’t adhere to those laws.
I have to admit, this doesn’t make much sense. He can be in the building, but not in the locker room. He can play basketball and be in a locker room, but not at the building. This whole situation gives off the appearance that Mayor Adams enjoys the attention of this issue.
Listen to the press conference. When asked about whether he’s feeling the pressure to lift the mandates for professional athletes to play at home here’s how he began his response “I do not feel any pressure when doing this job at all,” Mayor Adams said to the media after a smirk and a chuckle. “Because I’m going to do what’s right. That’s what I’m going to do. Let me tell you what pressure is. Pressure is being a transit cop in 1984 riding the trains by yourself with a radio that didn’t work”
We get it Mr. Mayor, you’re tough. You’re a New Yorker. You were a cop. We don’t need your tough-guy bonafides after someone asks you a simple question. In fact, this whole briefing quickly turned into Mayor Adams congratulating himself on his response to COVID. Of course he made sure to mention the well-being of children multiple times, but soon his responses all were some version of, “I’m right. I’ve been right. I’ll continue to be right, and criticize all you want now, but when you look back on this you will all see that I was right.”
Mayor Adams is certainly not lacking any self-assurance nor showing any discomfort in the spotlight. There was his tour of East Village businesses, maskless, to celebrate the relaxing of COVID restrictions, and, for whatever reason, on Sunday he walked through the Hoyt Street Subway Station wearing a raincoat that had nothing but the word mayor on the back.
I’m all for keeping everything as safe as possible. There’s nothing wrong with caution, especially with a pandemic that has killed millions of people across the world. But New York appears to be relatively open, and so I have to ask why he is being so hard and fast with this particular rule when other major cities have vaccine mandates but still allow unvaccinated athletes to play. Actually, unvaccinated athletes on opposing teams have been allowed to play in New York all year, and unvaccinated Kyrie Irving attends practices and is now on the sidelines at games but he can’t go into the locker room.
Irving should have been vaccinated a long time ago, but it’s starting to feel like the mayor is enjoying being the tough cop mayor that is going to get the city back to normal, but in the process is not going to give some professional athlete any perceived special treatment. If that’s what he’s doing, it’s silly — as politics frequently can be, but I digress. I’m not gonna tell a mayor three time zones away from me, in a place that I have never lived, what to do. But what I will say is that not moving on this particular issue of local unvaccinated athletes not being able to play but still being able to practice and attend games is inconsistent at best, especially when trying to give off the image that New York is opening back up.
I’m biased, I’m an NBA fan who wants to see the Nets at full strength come playoff time. I probably care about them more than the average New York resident who wouldn’t waste a thought about that team from Jersey. I just hope that you truly believe, Mr. Mayor, that either you’ll get to pro sports COVID restrictions when you get to it, even though you’ve already eased restrictions for patrons, or you sincerely believe that it being illegal for Kyrie Irving to be in the locker room last week was for the benefit of public health. If neither of those are true, then this is unnecessary grandstanding that is ruining my playoffs and I don’t appreciate it. I’m not in your constituency Mr. Mayor, so leave me out of whatever you’re trying to pull in New York.