By: Frank Cannistra
One of the NBA’s most polarizing figures has once again made headlines without even touching the court, as anti-vaccination protests in support of Kyrie Irving stole the show during the Nets home opener on Sunday, Oct. 24.
The Brooklyn Nets lost to the Charlotte Hornets in their first game of the season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Nets’ upset loss was disappointing to fans and the team, but outside of the Barclays Center, a completely different kind of problem was making itself known.
As the game was happening, hundreds of protestors were marching the streets of Brooklyn in an attempt to enact change to New York State’s vaccine mandate. The mandate has left superstar Kyrie Irving unable to play due to his unwillingness to receive the vaccine, and people aren’t happy about it.
Protestors were said to be using megaphones, shouting things like “Stand with Kyrie” and “My body, my choice.” For the most part, the protest was a peaceful one, with people walking the streets holding signs in support of Irving’s decision. What ended up garnering the most headlines, was the one part of the protest that got a bit aggressive.
According to a report from USA Today, one group attempted to storm into the Barclays Center. The group was met by security, and videos have now surfaced showing Barclays Center security having to get a bit rough in order to keep the rowdy crowd out of the arena.
“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” said a Barclays Center spokesperson.
The Kyrie Irving situation has become an incredibly difficult minefield for the Nets to work around in the past few weeks specifically. Prior to the start of the season, it seemed as though Kyrie would be able to play road games for the Nets in states that didn’t require vaccinations. As this became too much of a distraction for the team, Nets general manager Sean Marks deemed it better that Irving just not play at all until he was vaccinated.
This decision sparked trade talks, as fans began to speculate if the 7-time all-star could potentially be dealt to avoid distractions. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, not only were teams uninterested in Irving due to the risk he presented by randomly missing games, but Irving directly threatened to retire if he was traded by the team.
Irving himself has not commented on the situation at the Nets home opener, nor on whether he currently stands on receiving the vaccine any time soon.
Even without Irving playing, the Nets are the current betting favorites to win the NBA Championship this season. As the time goes by without Irving, and the crowds get louder outside of the arena, it’s uncertain how much longer the Nets will occupy that top spot.