Mayor Eric Adams made it official Thursday morning that the city will exempt local athletes and performers from the its vaccine mandate for private sector workers.
The move will allow unvaccinated superstar Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving to play home games for the first time this season. It will also make unvaccinated New York Yankees and Mets players eligible for home games in time for Opening Day next month.
Mayor Adams and Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer made the announcement Thursday from Citi Field. They argued that their decision simply adjusted the de Blasio-era vaccination policy that put local artists and athletes at a disadvantage.
Under the previous rules, performers and athletes from out of town did not have to be vaccinated to work in New York City.
With COVID cases remaining low and COVID-related hospitalizations less frequent, Adams said that now was the right time to peel back another pandemic restriction that inhibited economic growth. His hope is that the changes will help local entertainment venues by giving them more flexibility with whom they can book.
"This was a carve out that the previous administration did," Adams said. "I don't think people understand that; it was unfair to New Yorkers. It stated, 'If you come to our city, you will be treated differently.'
"We're talking about a small number of people who are having a major impact on our economy. I must accomplish keeping the city safe and I must accomplish recovering our economy."
Adams was pressed about non-performers who lost work over the vaccine mandates, like the 1,400 municipal employees who were terminated last month for not complying with the vaccine mandate. The mayor noted that more than 90 percent of New Yorkers have "participated in the moment" and been vaccinated; the mandate has held up in court; and the city is not entertaining the idea of rehiring or compensating those terminated employees "at this time."
"We're not talking about just a handful of athletes," he added regarding the effects of the rule change. "We're part of a financial ecosystem. We created an unfair disadvantage to New York-based performers. I'm correcting that disadvantage."
The mayor was joined at the news conference by both Yankees team president Randy Levine and Mets team president Sandy Alderson. Both executives acknowledged that most but not all of their players were vaccinated. Off-the-field, both teams have more than 99 percent vaccination rates among employees, they said.
Adams added that his administration's belief in vaccination is unchanged. There are no guarantees with COVID, and if the city has to re-impose vaccination rules at some point due to another surge, it will.
"Whatever I need to do to recover the city, protect the city, I'm going to do it," Adams said.