It's not often that a change to a local ordinance impacts a professional basketball team's title hopes, but that has been the case this NBA season for the Brooklyn Nets.
Unvaccinated Nets star guard Kyrie Irving will again be permitted to play games in New York City when Mayor Eric Adams alters the city's private sector vaccine mandate as it applies to "performers and athletes" on Thursday, per a report by Politico.
Under the current mandate, private sector businesses in NYC with more than 100 employees must require vaccination for in-person work — that includes all pro sports franchises and players, coaches and trainers for the Nets, Knicks, Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Liberty, etc.
Visiting performers and athletes, however, have never been required to be vaccinated under the rules.
That fact has never sat well with Mayor Adams. He has repeatedly characterized the de Blasio-era rule as unfair, but has yet to publicly hint at plans to change the mandate.
The mandate requiring guests at local venues, like Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, to be vaccinated was lifted on March 7. Irving took advantage of the change to attend his first Nets game of the season, albeit in the front row as a fan, not on the bench in a uniform.
The scene ratcheted up criticism of the vaccine mandate — even drawing rare condemnations from within the Nets organization. But Adams appeared unswayed by the pressure.
"Kyrie can play tomorrow," he said when asked about Irving during a March 13 press conference. "Get vaccinated."
Adams' tune was different this week when he signaled that more changes to the city's COVID-era rules were coming. He announced on Tuesday that the mask rules for schoolchildren under five years old (who are ineligible for the vaccine on account of their age) would be repealed on March 29, provided there is no dramatic change in the local COVID situation before then.
Again pressed by reporters about the rules applying to Irving and to the Yankees and Mets players. He replied that the private sector mandate would stay in effect, despite "some complaints."
Irving's return to the Nets as a full-time player would be a boon to the team's playoff aspirations. The eighth place Nets have 10 games remaining (including tonight's contest in Memphis), seven of which are set to take place within New York City (the Nets play the Knicks at MSG on April 6).
In just four games of action this month, Irving is scoring nearly 38 points per game.