The Brooklyn Nets lost their home opener Sunday at the Barclays Center 111 to 95. And while it wasn't clear whether the absence of star point guard Kyrie Irving contributed to that loss, many people who turned out to protest said he should have been allowed to play.
“I believe what he is doing is right,” protester Michelle Lambrakis said. “He is standing up for himself. Standing up for his team, also.”
Irving, who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, was forced to sit out the Nets’ first home game of the season Sunday afternoon.
What You Need To Know
- The Brooklyn Nets lost their home opener Sunday at the Barclays Center 111-95. The game did not feature point guard Kyrie Irving, who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19
- Nearly 200 people rallied outside the Barclays Center to protest to protest the city's vaccination mandate involving professional athletes that prevented Irving from playing in the home opener against the Charlotte Hornets
- With the exception of a brief scare in which a small group of protesters broke through barriers, forcing officials at the Barclays Center to temporarily close its doors, the rally was mostly peaceful
The rally, which involved nearly 200 protesters, was mostly peaceful, with the exception of a brief scare in which a small group broke through barriers, forcing officials at the Barclays Center to temporarily close its doors. Their chants offered support to Irving.
“All of a sudden, everyone is a health expert and is telling Kyrie Irving, who has lived 28 years on this planet, making his own decisions to make him one of the best athletes on the planet, what to do with his body,” protester Brian Melford said.
Melford and other protesters said that while they weren’t necessarily against vaccines, they did oppose New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which requires professional athletes to get vaccinated in order to play or practice in public venues.
“Telling him, 'Shut up and take the jab so you can shoot jump shots for us,' it’s almost telling him, 'Continue to be a puppet,'” Melford said. “Continue entertaining us, but we don’t care about anything else you have to do, what thoughts you have. It’s the mandate. We have no issue with the vaccine.”
For unvaccinated protester John Matland, who recently lost his job as a health care worker, Irving’s situation hit close to home.
“I got fired for not complying,” Matland said. “They rejected my religious exemption, and after 15 years, I am no longer a health care worker, so I was good to save everybody for 15 years and now I am not.”
Matland said he decided to come to the protest to show support for freedom of choice.