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18 Dec, 2021 18:37

Unvaccinated Kyrie Irving returns – it was morally dubious ever to sideline him

Unvaccinated Kyrie Irving returns – it was morally dubious ever to sideline him

The return of Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets will be claimed as a small moral victory for anyone who supports freedom of choice over forced vaccination. It also shows the Nets’ initial policy was always questionable.

Kyrie Irving is back, sort of.

The Nets have recalled their All-Star guard from the wilderness for road games this season, having initially banned him because he refused to get vaccinated.

The Nets are top of the Eastern Conference standings but a spate of injuries and players lost to Covid health protocols – allied with the heavy workload on MVP contender Kevin Durant – mean they are in dire need of reinforcement.

READ MORE: NBA star who refused Covid-19 vaccine allowed back in team

The Nets’ solution is to cancel the exile imposed on vaccine refusenik Irving back in October, when he was deemed persona non grata even though he could still have been available for most road games and could even have trained with the team.

Once he clears Covid protocols, Irving will now rejoin the Nets, ready to get up to speed for the remainder of the season. 

The 29-year-old will be eligible for all road games, with the exception of Toronto and cross-city meetings with the New York Knicks, both because of Covid rules.

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The Nets’ initial reasoning for shunting out Irving was that it was all or nothing; he was either fully vaxxed and ready to play a complete part in the season, or he would sit out the season – and possibly beyond.

Explaining back in October, Nets general manager Sean Marks said: “We’re not looking for partners that are going to be half-time."

As recently as Tuesday, Nets coach Steve Nash said he had “no updates” regarding the potential return of Irving to the ranks.

“I know he's working out and he'd love to be playing but I think the boundaries are still the same,” Nash had told reporters following the overtime win against the Toronto Raptors.

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But as the Nets appeared to have belatedly realized, their initial stance was always a false dichotomy based on questionable moral substance. 

They need not have sidelined Irving fully and could – and arguably should – have reasonably allowed him to play at least some part in the season before that situation was pressed upon them by recent circumstance.

After all, if they'd really cared all that much about their preliminary position over Irving – other sending a virtuous message over vaccines – why didn't they stick to their guns when the going got tough?  

Fast forward just a few days from Nash’s comments, and Nets GM Marks was confirming the rumors that Irving would, in fact, be back in from the cold.

“We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster," said Marks, describing it as a "team decision".

Irving won’t come into the team right away, and no definite date has been given for his return to court.

But with the Nets set for road games on December 23 against Portland, on Christmas Day at the LA Lakers, and on December 27 at the Clippers, welcoming Irving back for any of those – even if a rusty version of the seven-time All-Star – would surely be a boost.

A man as talented as Irving would enrich any NBA roster, even if still getting up to speed.

Irving has always been one of the NBA’s most mercurial talents – albeit accompanied with an eccentric off-court streak.

It’s that side to his persona which has surrounded much of the debate regarding his vaccine refusal.

Back in September, Irving was said to have been caught liking conspiracy theories which claimed that getting jabbed was a plan to link Black people to a master computer for a ‘Plan of Satan’.

Elsewhere, there were reports that Irving was not anti-vaccine but simply wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless” and those who had lost their jobs by not getting vaccinated, or had been coerced into it.  

Irving himself said publicly: “Nobody is gonna hijack my voice. Nobody is gonna take the power away from me that I have for speaking on these things.

“Don’t believe that I’m retiring. Don’t believe that I’m gonna give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated...

“Don’t believe any of that sh*t, man. Be aware of what’s being said before I even get a chance to be on the podium and speak for myself….

“Pay attention to what’s going on in the real world, people are losing their jobs to these mandates.”

As it turns out, Irving’s resolve to stick to those convictions is stronger than that of his employers.

The Nets’ readiness to cast aside their initial position in pursuit of success raises questions over just how arbitrary – and unnecessary – their decision was to sideline Irving in the first place.

The Nets blinked first in this standoff, handing Irving and all those who are against vaccine mandates a victory in this particular skirmish. 

By Liam Tyler

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.