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In the October 15 newsletter:
Kyrie Irving’s stance on the vaccine is a complicated and not very fun thing to talk about, because it’s a story in which two individually messy subjects intersect in compoundingly messy ways. But let's talk about it ...

Reacting to the Kyrie Irving Situation

Logan Murdock and Raja Bell give their final thoughts on the situation in Brooklyn after the Nets said he won’t play with the team until he can fully contribute and Kyrie put his reasoning on the internet. LISTEN ON SPOTIFY.

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The Kyrie Conundrum

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The current Kyrie Irving saga is about the COVID-19 vaccine. He doesn’t want to get it. New York City’s vaccine mandate stipulates that he can’t play in home games if he doesn’t. His team, the Brooklyn Nets, after a bit of dithering, has declared that the seven-time All-Star won’t practice or play “until he is eligible to be a full participant,” meaning, I guess, until either he gets vaccinated or New York changes its law. His teammates, including All-Stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, are understood (by the people who understand these things—whoever they are) to have supported this decision.

Irving’s motives for refusing the vaccine and possibly losing out on around $17 million in salary while possibly torching the championship hopes of a team he was instrumental in assembling are, like many things about Irving, a little tricky to pin down. To go by a mishmash of anonymous comments reportedly from people close to him and a dizzyingly incoherent statement he released on Instagram, he’s not anti-vax so much as uncomfortable with vaccine mandates in general. It’s hard to be sure, though, because this clear, if possibly misguided, protest position has been jumbled in among a lot of vague rhetoric about how he’s doing what’s best for his body, and how no one will ever take away his voice, and how this isn’t about one side versus the other, and so forth. I have no idea what’s going on inside Irving’s mind, of course—that’s part of the problem—but it’s easy to look at the messaging from his camp and conclude that he himself is not quite sure why he’s doing this, or that he’s attracted to the idea of taking a stand without being excessively clear on the specifics of the stand he’s taking.

An anonymous source told The Athletic earlier this week that Irving wants to be “a voice for the voiceless,” meaning, I guess, people who had lost their jobs after refusing to be vaccinated. This quote gave rise to some funny tweets to the effect that, sure, all the great voices for the voiceless throughout history have declared their intentions through the medium of the unnamed spokesperson. But the thing is, even if you take the statement at face value, people who are opposed to vaccine mandates are not “the voiceless” in America. They have numerous voices. Their voices include one of our two major political parties and our most widely viewed television news channel

[Read more from Brian Phillips]

“If he wanted to show moral leadership on an urgent public-health issue, he should have spent his energy urging his followers to be vaccinated voluntarily before mandates were even on the table.”
—Brian Phillips
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