The six-month suspension of Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing home games due to his vaccination status appears to be coming to an end.
According to a source familiar with the plan, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is expected to exempt city performers and professional athletes from a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for workers on Thursday.
Irving, a seven-time All-Star guard who has chosen not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, has been unable to play in any of the Nets’ 35 home games since the NBA season began in October due to the policy.
According to the source, Adams will make the announcement on Thursday morning at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The announcement would come ahead of the start of the MLB season, allowing unvaccinated Mets and Yankees players to play in home games.
The mask requirement for indoor activities in New York was lifted on March 7. However, all employees who perform in-person work or interact with the public must show proof of having received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The city had already made an exception for entertainers and professional athletes who were not New York City residents.
Irving, who is a member of the New York Knicks, was not exempt. Irving was initially barred from traveling with the Nets, but he was allowed to return in December. As the Nets jockey for playoff position, a change now would allow Irving to play not only the team’s three remaining regular-season road games, but also the team’s six remaining home games.
As other Covid-19 rules around the country faded, the policy drew increasing criticism from some NBA affiliates this month.
However, the city’s largest police union, which opposes the worker vaccine mandate, was not pleased with Adams’ expected announcement about full athlete and performer exemptions.
Irving’s impending return to home games comes during a crucial stretch leading up to the playoffs. The Nets currently have the eighth-best record in the NBA Eastern Conference, three wins behind the sixth-place team, which would guarantee a regular playoff seed. The Nets will compete in a four-team play-in tournament to determine which teams will fill the conference’s seventh and eighth playoff seeds if they finish seventh to tenth.
Irving, who scored 43 points in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, received Adams’ expected announcement as a 30th birthday present.
Irving requested that no reporter question him about the mandate until it was officially announced at his post-game press conference, but he was irritated when he was asked about it. When asked about the potential “domino effect” of the policy change on the team, Irving smiled and said he “could not wait” to speak with reporters once an official announcement was made.
The Nets’ next home game is against the Charlotte Hornets the following evening, after a game on the road against the Miami Heat on Saturday.
Irving has been able to watch games at Barclays Center, but his presence in the home locker room during a game earlier this month resulted in a $50,000 fine for the Nets for “violating local New York City law and league health and safety protocols.”
The NBA Players Association’s executive director had previously called for the policy to end. Irving’s former teammate, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, said on social media that it made “absolutely zero sense” that the Nets guard could attend the game as a fan but not join the team as a player.
In an Instagram Live video, Irving defended his decision not to get vaccinated in October, saying that “nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies,” and that his decision was not politically motivated.