ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith criticized Kyrie Irving, who recently was banned by the Brooklyn Nets from participating in the upcoming basketball season until he gets the COVID-19 vaccination. HuffPost reports Smith made an appearance on Don Lemon's CNN show, where he chided the NBA star for his stance and praised the Brooklyn Nets for making the tough decision.
“The mandate is in New York. It’s in L.A. now. It’s in San Francisco,” Smith said on the show. “If this man does not get vaccinated, he would be violating the mandate and as a result, he would miss 41 home games for the Brooklyn Nets, plus a couple of games at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. Plus a game in L.A. Plus a game in San Francisco.”
“Sorry, if you can’t take a vaccine that 6.2 billion people in the world have already taken,” the ESPN pundit exclaimed. “Trying to claim that you think there is some kind of a conspiracy going on and you want to be that defiant and leave the rest of your team hanging — the Kevin Durants, the James Hardens of the world. As far as I’m concerned, the hell with you!”
While he agrees that Irving should have the right to not receive the vaccine, he adds that the team also has the right to tell him goodbye over his decision.
As part of New York City's mandate, all players on the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are required to be fully vaccinated in order to hit the court at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center. San Francisco is also planning to follow a similar mandate.
Irving has made his stance against the vaccine and mandates clear, standing up for the likes of other NBA stars who've publicly refused the COVID-19 shot, including Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors. Wiggins has since changed his position and received the vaccine after facing a potential $9 million loss for the season.
The Nets originally considered making Irving a part-time player on the team, allowing him to participate in practices and road games. The NBA star, however, would Iose about $400,00 for each missed game, but Smith said the team "shouldn't pay him a dime and let him live his life," per The Daily Beast.
According to a report by The Atlantic, sources close to the NBA star share he actually doesn't have an issue with the COVID-19 vaccine, rather he has a problem with people losing their jobs over vaccine mandates. They say the issue is a "grander fight" that he's chosen to champion because Irving "wants to be a voice for the voiceless."