Star of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irving took questions at a post-game press conference following his return to play at his home arena, remarking that he's “standing for freedom.”
“The point of this season for me was never to just take a stand, it was really to make sure that I'm standing on what I believe in, and freedom” Irving told reporters.
“There’s nobody that’s enslaving me, there’s nobody that’s telling me what I’m going to do with my life, and that’s just the way I am,” the 6'2” guard continued.
A vaccination mandate was applied to all NBA players at the beginning of the season with only a handful of players holding out.
While some were living or playing in locations which allowed them to play, others like Irving were not so lucky as the league passed the buck to individual cities, forcing players to fall under the vaccination rules for the jurisdiction in which they play.
However, under the quirks of public health regulations, mandates were lifted in New York City but Irving remained ineligible to play in home games. Irving would attend a game courtside, unmasked, to watch a game despite not being allowed to play or be with the team.
Just days later, the Brooklyn Nets were fined $50,000 for letting the unvaccinated star into the locker room.
The week following, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that he would exempt athletes and performers from the city's vaccine mandate for private workers. Within a few days, Irving made his home-court debut for the season against the Charlotte Hornets, with his comments coming after the game.