The Brooklyn Nets star told reporters Monday that the team offered him a four-year, $100 million extension before the 2021-22 season if he changed his stance on the vaccine. Irving missed most of the Nets’ home games last season due to New York City’s COVID-19 policies requiring players to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving said. “[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”
Irving also said he thought the criticism that he wasn’t “committed to the team” because of his decision to not get the shot was “unfair.” He said not many teams were interested in trading for him last season due to the “stigma” of his vaccination status.
“There were options,” Irving said, “but not many, I’ll tell you that, because again, this stigma of whether or not I want to play, whether or not I’m going to be committed to the team, which I thought was really unfair at times. But also, the timing was ideal to be able to put that on me because I wasn’t available.”
He said it was a “tough pill to swallow” that the Nets treated his vaccination status as “an ultimatum” for them to offer the former NBA champion point guard a contract extension. He opted into the last year of his contract for $36.5 million before this season.
“There’s no ultimatum being given here,” Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters. “Again, it goes back to you want people who are reliable, people who are here, and accountable. All of us: staff, players, coaches, you name it. It’s not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That’s a completely personal choice. I stand by Kyrie. I think if he wants, he‘s made that choice. That’s his prerogative completely.”
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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