Kyrie Irving set for home debut after NYC Mayor Eric Adams expands vaccine mandate exemption

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 5: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets smiles during the game against the Utah Jazz on January 5, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s official!

The unvaccinated Kyrie Irving will be making his home debut this season on Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets host LaMelo Ball and his Charlotte Hornets. The Barclays Center is expected to have an electric atmosphere to welcome back Irving on the floor after a near season-long standoff with New York City regarding its strict vaccine mandate.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams finally relented Thursday. He officially announced the exemption of the city-based athletes and performers from the private employer vaccine mandate “to level the playing field” and boost the economy.

“Day one as a mayor, I looked at the rule that stated that hometown players had an unfair disadvantage for those who are coming to visit. Immediately, I felt we needed to look at that, but my medical professionals said, ‘Eric, we’re in a different place. We have to wait until we have a place where we are in a low area, and we can re-examine the mandates.’ We’re here today,” Adams said in a press conference Thursday at Citi Field.

Irving and the Nets aren’t only the beneficiaries of Adams’ latest decision. The exemption will also allow unvaccinated members of the New York Yankees and New York Mets to rejoin their clubs in time for the Major League Baseball Opening Day two weeks from now.

Shortly after Adams’ announcement, the NBA and NBA Players Association released a joint statement throwing support to Adams’ decision.

“The NBA and NBPA have achieved a 97% vaccination and 75% booster rate among players, required both for league staff, team staff, and referees, and will continue to be strong advocates for vaccination and boosters. With today’s announcement, we support the Mayor’s determination that the old rules treating hometown and visiting players differently no longer made sense, particularly because unvaccinated NBA players will continue to test daily. We applaud the Mayor for listening to the concerns of our New York teams, players, fans, and communities and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents,” the statement said.

The timing of Adams’s decision couldn’t be more perfect as Irving celebrated his 30th birthday Wednesday. But Irving’s birthday celebration was spoiled by a 132-120 road loss in Memphis against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies. Irving scored 43 points but still was not enough to lift the Nets, who are 2.5 games behind the seventh seed Toronto Raptors and 3.5 games behind the sixth seed Cleveland Cavaliers with nine games remaining.

The Nets will visit the slumping Miami Heat on Saturday, the front end of a back-to-back schedule. Irving will have little turnaround time for his much-awaited home debut on Sunday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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