The Brooklyn Nets benched superstar guard Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA's most prominent unvaccinated players, the team said Tuesday.
"Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant," general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
The Nets had been anticipating an uncomfortable 50 percent availability for Irving because the team plays home games at Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn. City health codes mandate at least one Covid vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms.
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Marks said the team didn't want to operate in a part-time arrangement for Irving, adding it would fly in the face of efforts to "build chemistry as a team." He insisted the team has no qualms with Irving's decision not to get inoculated.
"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose," Marks said. "Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice."
The Nets are favorites to win the NBA title, with established stars like Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
"Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction," Marks said. "We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud."