Kyrie Irving playing against the Pacers in his first game of this season. Photo: Andy Lyons

Kyrie Irving returned to the NBA on Jan. 5 against the Pacers after missing the first half of the season. 

Irving has already missed 48 games which created lots of controversy back in September. He was not allowed at any Nets practices and received significant backlash. However, he has remained steadfast in his beliefs, saying that he is doing what is best for him and it is about freedom, not politics or money. Irving’s patience has paid off; however, and the Nets have reversed their decision from October: “We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols… We look forward to Kyrie’s return to the lineup, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks. Irving is allowed to remain unvaccinated, but he cannot play in home games due to the vaccine mandate in New York. Although Nets fans are ecstatic about Irving’s return, others are more worried about potential health risks. 

“We have a rule that has to be applied, whether you’re famous, you know, whether you’re an everyday working man or woman – get vaccinated because that’s what makes us all safe,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Kyrie is a heck of a player. But to only play in road games, I don’t think it’s fair to the game … but more importantly, I don’t think it’s fair to the team,” said NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. 

Irving is not the only sports player to remain unvaccinated. World No.1 ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic has also publicly stated that he is against taking the vaccination. This has also sparked controversy when he also revealed he broke isolation while being positive for COVID-19. He was granted an exemption from the Australian Open Covid restrictions and has been permitted to play despite his vaccination status. 

These world-class athletes continue to refuse the vaccination which gives off the impression that COVID-19 is not that scary. These athletes are role models for many people, especially young kids. It is dangerous if they spread misinformation about anything online, especially something as serious as COVID-19 towards an impressionable audience.

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