Seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving recently rejoined the Nets on a part-time basis, with participation limited to practices and away games.
Due to New York City regulations for persons that are not vaccinated for COVID-19, Irving is prohibited from playing in games held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden. He is, however, allowed to practice with the team as the Nets’ facility has been deemed a private building.
According to a recent report from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, getting vaccinated technically wouldn’t be the only way that Irving could join the Nets for games played in New York.
What loophole would allow unvaccinated Kyrie Irving to play in Nets’ home games?
Bondy’s report cites “The Key to NYC,” an executive order instituted by former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, which outlines the regulations and punishment for unvaccinated persons over the age of 12.
The order states that “except as provided in subdivision c of this section, a covered entity shall not permit a patron, full- or part-time employee, intern, volunteer, or contractor to enter a covered premises without displaying proof of vaccination and identification bearing the same identifying information as the proof of vaccination.”
While professional athletes that play for teams based outside of New York City are exempt, the above statement applies to professional athletes for New York’s home teams. So, what is the loophole? In short, there is a relatively small fine imposed upon those in violation of the plan.
The first offense results in a warning, the second offense results in a $1,000 fine, the third offense leads to a $2,000 fine and each offense from that point forward results in a $5,000 fine.
For perspective, Irving has been docked 1/91.6 of his salary, or $380,000, for each home game that he has missed up to this point in the season. Per Forbes, Nets owner Joseph Tsai has a net worth of $8.9 billion.
Whether or not the fines will be incurred upon the individual or the business, the potential financial loss would be manageable for either party.
Would the NBA allow the Nets and Kyrie Irving to use this loophole?
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided clarification on this hypothetical situation, citing an NBA memo from Sept. 1 that states teams must follow local laws. As such, this loophole would not permit Irving to play as it would be a direct violation of New York City law.
To be clear on the hypothetical ability for a team to pay a fine for an unvaccinated player to play in a marketplace that local ordinances forbid: NBA memo to organizations on September 1 says that teams must follow local laws and players who don’t comply won’t be able to play.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2022
As it stands, Irving would only be allowed to participate in away games should the Nets advance to the 2021 NBA Playoffs. If they were to face the Knicks or Raptors, he would be unable to participate at all if he remains unvaccinated and current rules remain in place.
Should current regulations threaten Irving’s participation in postseason basketball, the team could look to find an exemption for its star.