Chaos erupted outside of Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday as hundreds of protesters gathered in support of Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who has refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Protesters congregated outside the Nets’ arena shortly before the teams’ home opener against the Charlotte Hornets tipped off at 4 p.m. local time, according to Newsday and ESPN. Some held signs that read “Stand with Kyrie,” while chanting “No vaccine mandate, stand with Kyrie,” ESPN reports.
At one point, Newsday reported, a group of protesters breached barricades and reached the arena’s front entrance. Video of the scene shows individuals waving flags and yelling “Let Kyrie play.”
Per the outlet, the building briefly went into lockdown, with some fans temporarily unable to get inside. Footage from inside Barclays Center shared on Twitter appears to show protesters attempting to get through the arena’s doors.
On Oct. 12, the Nets announced Irving would not be allowed to join the team for practice or games until he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. New York City, where the Nets are based, currently requires anyone over the age of 12 entering a “covered premises” in the city to prove they have received the coronavirus vaccine.
The next day, Irving responded on Instagram Live, where he spoke about his “freedom” surrounding the COVID vaccine. The point guard suggested he had been “promised that you have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine” ahead of the 2021-22 season.
“This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family,” he said in the video. “I chose to be unvaccinated. And that was my choice. And I would ask y’all just to respect that choice.”
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He added: “I’m staying grounded in what I believe in. It’s not about being anti-vax or about being on one side or the other. It’s about being true to what feels good for me. I’m still uncertain about a lot of things. And that’s OK. If I’m going to be demonized about having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, then that’s just what it is.”
Last Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver urged Irving to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during an appearance on Inside the NBA on TNT.
“I’d tell him to get vaccinated, first and foremost, for himself and his family,” said Silver, 59. “Next, for his teammates and his community, and also for the league that I know he cares so much about.”
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