“The financial consequences, I know I do not want to even do that,” Irving said. “But it is reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice.
“I am going to just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing. This is not a political thing; this is not about the NBA, not about any organization. This is about my life and what I am choosing to do.”
ESPN reports that the decision not to allow Irving to join the team until he had at least one shot was made by General Manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai. Irving is not allowed to play as mandated by New York City.
The confounding thing is, the seven-time NBA All-Star and future hall of famer has a history of doing the right thing more than the wrong.
In 2016, Irving tweeted his support for Standing Rock Reservation, supporters of which were demonstrating at the time against the Dakota Access Pipeline. A year later, he donated $100,000 to the reservation.
The gifted point guard’s mother, Elizabeth, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Irving has embraced his lineage and in 2018 was honored with a naming ceremony by the Lakota. He was given the name “Hela” in the Lakota language, meaning Little Mountain.
“There was a certain point in my life where I had come almost at a crossroads with my dad, my sister, my friends, my grandparents, and I had no idea kind of what direction to go into because I had lost the sense of a foundation,” Irving told ESPN at the time of his naming. “Knowing my mom passed and left me such a powerful, empowering family such as Standing Rock … to be a part of it now, this is family for life.”
“I’m sorry about all that,” Irving said. “For all of the science teachers, everybody coming up to me like, ‘You know, I have to reteach my whole curriculum,’ I’m sorry. I apologize.”
A few months later, Irving changed his tune a bit, saying, “For me, it’s not about whether the world is flat or whether the world is round. It’s really about just everyone just believing what they want to believe and feeling comfortable with it.” Argh … Then he said he’d simply wandered too deep down a “rabbit hole” on YouTube.
But, in 2020, Irving bought George Floyd’s family a house and was one of the leading voices proposing NBA players (80% of whom are Black) boycott the season, so as not to distract from the social justice protests happening around the globe.
“I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform],” he said, according to The Athletic.
Irving says he’s not retiring and assured fans that he’s not leaving the game. Well, Little Mountain, we have to ask: Is this the hill you’re willing to die on?