New York-based artists and athletes who play for local New York teams will be exempt from the city’s vaccination mandate for private companies, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday at a press conference. at Citi Field. That means unvaccinated Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will be eligible to play in home games, starting with Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center.
Adams, who previously said “it would send the wrong message” to grant Irving an exemption when virtually everyone working in the city is under the same mandate and unvaccinated municipal workers have lost their jobs, said presented the problem as an expansion of an earlier exemption. The move will also affect unvaccinated members of the New York Yankees and New York Mets, who are two weeks away from Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
“It’s about putting New York-based artists on a level playing field,” Adams said. “On day one when I was mayor, I looked at the rule that said hometown players had an unfair disadvantage to those who came to visit. And immediately I felt we had to look at that, but my medical professionals said, ‘Eric, we’re in a different place. We have to wait until we’re in a place where we’re in a low zone and we can re-examine some of the warrants.’ We are here today.”
“We treated our artists differently because they lived and played for local teams,” Adams said. “This is not acceptable. This exemption has placed our sports teams at a self-imposed competitive disadvantage. But this new order will help stimulate our economy.”
The NBA and the NBA Players Association released a joint statement shortly after Adams’ announcement:
“The NBA and NBPA have achieved a 97% vaccination rate and 75% recall rate among players, required for both league staff, team staff and referees, and will continue to be strong advocates of vaccinations and boosters. With today’s announcement, we support the Mayor’s determination that the old rules treating home and visiting players differently no longer made sense, in especially because unvaccinated NBA players will continue to test themselves daily. We commend the mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams. and their adversaries.
Two days before this announcement, Adams held a press conference to announce that, until there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, masks will be optional for children ages 2-4. in kindergarten and daycare starting April 4. At that time, he said there were no changes to announce regarding athletes and entertainers: “Baseball, basketball, business, all of those things, they have to wait for that layer. is coming and at the moment we are only announcing our two- to four-year-olds.”
“I said we have to wait,” Adams said Thursday. “Two days is still ‘wait.’ And we’re on the date that we feel is the time to roll it out.”
Adams has repeatedly said the city is simply adding New York-based athletes and artists to an existing exclusion: “It was an exclusion that the previous administration made. I don’t think people really understand that. This exclusion already existed. It was unfair to New Yorkers. It said that if you came to our city, we were going to treat you differently than we would treat New Yorkers. We’re fixing that. And we didn’t. not done automatically. We waited until we were comfortable enough on the basis of the medical team and continued to move forward with a very strategic plan to revive our economy and look at some of the unjust things that we have seen.”
The exemption for out-of-town performers and athletes, however, has been part of the Key2NYC vaccination mandate. (Bill de Blasio, the former mayor, argued that it was not a “loophole.”) The Adams administration had already lifted Key2NYC’s mandate; it now exempts Irving and other unvaccinated performers from a different mandate, which covers private businesses.
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Irving played 20 games for the Nets this season (all on the road) and averaged 28.5 points, 55.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Brooklyn is 38-35 and is eighth in the East, 2.5 games behind the No. 7 Toronto Raptors. If the season ended today, the Raptors would have to be visited for the first play-in game. Toronto is the only city in the NBA where Irving remains ineligible to play.