Kyrie Irving is a great basketball player, but he won’t be in the Brooklyn Nets lineup this season. The reason isn’t some nagging injury or family emergency. Irving has steadfastly refused to comply with New York City’s mandate requiring anyone entering an indoor venue, including basketball arenas, to have received at least one COVID-19 shot.
Rather than have him be a half-time player who misses the 43 regular-season games the Nets will play in the city this season, the team decided to exclude him from practices and games altogether. This will cost Irving more than $16 million for the missed games in Gotham. (The Nets will have to pay Irving for the 40 away games, since it was their decision to keep him off the court in cities that don’t require vaccination.)
Why is Irving doing this?
Most adults who refuse vaccination, whether the flu shot or the COVID-19 vaccine, cite concerns about vaccine safety or the effectiveness of and need for vaccination. Yet it is unclear exactly why Irving is refusing or if safety and effectiveness concerns are driving his decision.
Until recently, some sources said Irving was following and liking an Instagram conspiracy theorist who claimed vaccines had microchips designed to connect black people to a master computer. More recently, another source reported that Irving considers himself “a voice for the voiceless” who “is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood.”
Whether Irving has legitimate doubts, is a political crusader or is simply a nut, his refusal to be vaccinated is inconsistent with the vast evidence showing the vaccines are extremely effective and safe. There are three vaccines available in this country: One (Pfizer) has received full Food and Drug Administration approval and two (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) can be obtained under the FDA’s emergency-use authorizations.
All three vaccines went through Phase III testing with 30,000 to 40,000 subjects per trial. Following authorization, they continued to undergo continuous and intense safety monitoring.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have received the vaccines, making the safety information far more robust than is available for most new drugs. It confirms that side effects are uncommon, usually mild and of short duration.
The most serious side effect of the m-RNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) has been inflammation of the heart (pericarditis or myocarditis) that is rare, usually seen in young men; in most cases, the inflammation is mild and resolves quickly. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the most serious side effect is a rare form of blood clot associated with low platelets, usually in adult women younger than age 50. In the more than 15 million people who have received it, there have only been 47 confirmed cases of this syndrome, three of which resulted in death.
Whatever is motivating Irving, his decision is bad for the Nets and a bad example to a public that looks up to its sports stars. It risks undermining confidence in vaccines that are remarkably safe and needed to end the pandemic. Gone are the days when athletes provided models of sacrifice for the public good; people like Ted Williams, who twice left baseball to serve in World War II and Korea, or Pat Tillman, who left football for the Army following 9/11 and was killed in combat. As NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar told reporters, players who refuse vaccination aren’t “behaving like good teammates or good citizens.”
Read the full article at the New York Post.