‘A slave mind follows the crowd’: Floyd Mayweather backs NBA star Kyrie Irving in vaccine refusal row (VIDEO)
Undefeated boxing great Floyd Mayweather has thrown his support behind Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, the basketball firebrand who cannot currently play due to his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Irving, 29, is the most high-profile athlete to have fallen foul of New York's vaccine mandate which would mean that the seven-time NBA all-star would be prohibited from playing with his teammates in their home state - with the Nets opting to inform him to stay away from the team and training until he received a full dose of one of the several vaccines against Covid-19.
The issue has been a contentious one. A group on anti-vaccine mandate protestors made their voices heard on Sunday outside Brooklyn's Barclays Center prior to the Nets home season opener against Charlotte - and now Mayweather has added his significant weight to the debate by issuing an impassioned defense of Irving on social media.
"Kyrie, what's up, I know you’re going through a lot. We had the chance to hang out in 2016 when you represented America, when you represented the red, white and blue," said Mayweather in a video posted to social media.
"You only want to be treated fairly. I was going to post something on my social media pages but I decided to do it the old-school way and read something out to you because you’re a great person, a great father, a great athlete and you believe what you believe.
"America is the land of the free; freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, supposedly, freedom to choose. Never be controlled by money, I respect you for having some integrity and for being your own man.
"A free mind makes his own choices and a slave mind follows the crowd. Stand for something or fall for anything. One man can lead a revolution, to stand up and fight for what’s right. One choice, one word, one action can change the world.
"It’s crazy how people hate you for being a leader. I hope your actions encourage many others to stand up and say enough is enough. Respect to you Kyrie and power to the people."
Irving's hesitance, and Mayweather's subsequent backing of it, represents a movement among some within the sports world in opposition to vaccine mandates.
The issue has already been widely felt in the NFL, with players like Cole Beasley of the Buffalo Bills risking the wrath of the league for his continued opposition to the jab, while January's Australian Open is currently shrouded in mystery as conflicting information regarding quarantines and entry to the country for players continues to swell.
To date, the United States has recorded in excess of 730,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 - but explaining his own position further, Mayweather said that he believes the issue is one of freedom of choice.
"Choice is defined as an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. To my understanding, America gave us the choice to take the vaccine or not take the vaccine originally," wrote Mayweather in a caption on Instagram along with the video message to Irving.
"As time moves on, that choice is gradually being stripped from us. Limiting the jobs we can do, places we can go, and activities we can perform. Trying to beat us into submission of what they say is best for us.
"It’s sad people are hated, punished, teased, and discriminated for not taking the vaccine, for making their own choice, standing up for what they not only think is right, but know is right for them and their families.
"I am Pro Choice," he added. "A person should be free to make the decision best suited for themself. If we can’t make our own decisions we are not truly free. Our forefathers, fought for our freedom as our soldiers, first responders, and patriots continue to do to this day.
"Why is it when someone decides to do something differently from what we are told, it is right we condemn them? Condemn them for making a choice, choosing to be free, choosing to not conform to the norms society tells us to conform to."Also on rt.com ‘What’s being mad going to do?’: Nets star Durant speaks on Irving predicament after teammate sidelined for Covid jab refusal
Somewhat predictably, the reaction online to Mayweather's polemic was mixed.
"I’m vaccinated, but I respect Kyrie, he is turning down a lot of money. He is genuine," wrote one in response to the clip.
Others, though, weren't quite so on board with a billionaire openly railing against mandates for getting jabbed.
"Reminder: Floyd is worth 1.2 billion dollars, he lives in a small, gated community, and he can afford the highest grade medical care available in the world," wrote one.
"I'm not even going to listen to him. I would never take health advice from Floyd Mayweather under any other circumstance, so why would I now?" added another.Also on rt.com ‘Let Kyrie play’: Protesters breach barriers outside New York arena, demand that Brooklyn Nets reinstate unvaccinated star Irving