Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, currently embroiled in a standoff over his decision to not get vaccinated, took to Instagram Live on Wednesday to clarify he has no plans to retire.
In his first public comments on the vaccine since it emerged that he would miss Nets home games for refusing to get the shot, Irving spoke for more than 20 minutes, interrupted only when he appeared to accidentally mute himself and briefly halted his broadcast.
"Don't believe that I'm retiring," Irving said. "Don't believe that I'm going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated. Don't believe any of that s***, man."
Kyrie Irving discussed retirement rumors on Instagram LIVE. pic.twitter.com/4b8d18c1jG
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) October 14, 2021
Irving spoke at length on vaccine mandates and society in general, reiterating many of the points made for him in an article from The Athletic's Shams Charania posted the previous day. Essentially, Irving said he refuses to get vaccinated because he believes he is standing up for people who have lost their jobs due to their own refusal to get a safe, widely administered vaccine that could help end a global pandemic that has killed millions of people and could kill even more.
However, Irving also stressed he is not anti-vaccine, he's just anti-vaccine mandates:
"Just know that I'm rocking with all those that have lost their jobs to this mandate, and I'm rocking with all those that chose to get vaccinated and are choosing to be safe, as well. I'm on both sides of all this. I support and respect everybody's decision.
"The financial consequence and stuff, I know I do not want to even do that, but it's reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on the team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated and that was my choice, and would ask you all just to respect that choice. I am going to just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates and be part of this whole thing."
While Irving was broadcasting, he received the usual fervent support from his fan base, including encouraging messages from retired NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury and, curiously, the official account of Duke's men's basketball, for whom Irving played 11 games in 2011. Duke Athletics declined to comment on the messages.
Irving also mentioned he doesn't want be used for an agenda, though that ship has obviously sailed. Several conservative mouthpieces, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr., have already taken to social media to show their support for Irving.
As things currently stand, Irving will not be playing games for the Nets this season unless he gets vaccinated. He was officially barred from playing home games at Barclays Center due to New York City vaccine mandates, but Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team doesn't want a part-time player.
There are basically two ways it seems this situation can end: either New York lifts its vaccine mandates or Irving gets vaccinated. Judging from what he said Wednesday, the latter remains unlikely.