“Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protesters from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena,” the spokesperson said in a statement (via the AP). “Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule.”
Under a sweeping city ordinance in which NBA players were warned by the league in September, unvaccinated members of the Nets and New York Knicks cannot play in home games. In theory, Irving could take part in road games for Brooklyn, but the Nets announced this month he would not “play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
Irving, a seven-time all-star who is in his third season with Brooklyn, confirmed a day later that he was unvaccinated and declared his choice “bigger than the game.” In comments he shared on social media, Irving said it wasn’t “a political thing” for him and that he had been under the impression that, despite being unvaccinated, he was “going to be able to play ball.”
The 2012 NBA rookie of the year is among just a handful of players in the league who remain unvaccinated. Commissioner Adam Silver said last week that “roughly 96 percent” of players are vaccinated and that the number was likely to “tick up a little bit” as the season got underway. He described New York’s ordinance and a similar one in San Francisco that affects Golden State Warriors players as “perfectly appropriate.”
“I hope that Kyrie — despite how strongly he feels about the vaccination — ultimately decides to get vaccinated because I’d love to see him play basketball this season,” Silver added at the time. “I’d love to see the Brooklyn Nets have their full complement of players on the floor.”
On Sunday, some protesters wore T-shirts or held signs that read, “Stand with Kyrie.” Messages on other signs included “No mandates — my body, my choice”; “We will not comply” and “Don’t tread on me.”
Estimates from the scene about the size of the group ranged from approximately 100 to several hundred. Some protesters were seen in Trump hats while some others reportedly wore Black Lives Matter shirts. The New York Police Department confirmed on Monday reports that no arrests were made.
An unidentified protester said of Irving to New York’s WABC-TV: “It may not be fair for the team, but I definitely think he’s making a statement. I do hope I see him coming into games soon, and I think he will.”