Brooklyn Nets owner says choice to not have Kyrie Irving play is a team decision, 'not a decision about him'

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai wants Kyrie Irving to be vaccinated "as soon as possible," but he's not sure when the point guard will return.
Tsai is certain Irving must be vaccinated in order to play for the Nets, as long as New York City has its mandate.

When asked by ESPN when he thought Irving would play again, Tsai replied that he didn't know. If the New York mandate remains in effect, then he must be vaccinated before he can return to play. Don't ask me when the New York mandate may be changed. If you ask people at the city level who make decisions, they will tell you that we rely on science and rely on the advice of the health department [to proceed].

Tsai stated that Irving has not spoken with him since Oct. 12, when the team decided to have Irving stay away until Irving has completed the COVID-19 requirements. Irving must get at least one vaccine in order to play at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center.

"Last [I] conversation with him was when we decided that he wasn't going to play until something changes," stated Tsai who, along with Clara Wu Tsai, owns the team. "We have not communicated since that time."

Tsai added: "Obviously Kyrie holds his beliefs so I respect them. However, we must make a collective decision. This is not about him. This decision is about where we go together as a team. It is not possible to have a team that has a player who comes in and goes out, with no home games. How do you practice that?

"This week, we have six home games. We won't have Kyrie. It was clear to all of us. We all agree with Sean [Marks], GM, and the coaching staff that this must be [the decision], especially as we have high hopes for our team. We can't imagine any other way to run this team."

Before the team's home opener on Sunday, a group of protestors gathered outside Barclays Center. They held signs that said "Stand with Kyrie" and shouted, "No vaccine mandate." Stand with Kyrie. A few of the demonstrators attempted to get to Barclays Center's front door, but were stopped by security.

Tsai stated, "I think it's a sham for people to hijack this type of thing when life or death is at stake." It shouldn't be a political issue. Protestors are making a political statement when they demonstrate. These men are not avid basketball fans. They don't care if someone is playing on the court.

They are trying to hijack the issue but it is dangerous as we are in a life-and death situation. You have a higher chance of becoming very sick if you don't get vaccinated. If you do catch COVID you could end up in the ICU or even die. It's the result.

Tsai is a strong advocate for getting vaccinated.

Tsai, one co-founder, member of the board of directors and executive vice chairman at Alibaba Group, stated that "I don’t believe it’s a matterof belief." It's a fact. It's science.

"... Because people have been vaccinated, we are now able open the economy. People can socialize, play games, and go to full-capacity Barclays Centers. It is a fact. It is not a belief in any way.

Irving stated on Instagram Live Oct. 13 that while he wasn't pro or anti-vaccine, he respected those who have lost their livelihoods because of not getting vaccinated.

Irving stated, "I made the decision to not get vaccinated. That was my choice. I ask that you all respect that choice." I will continue to keep fit, stay healthy, and be available to play with my teammates. This isn't a political issue; it is not about the NBA or any other organization. It is about me and the things I choose to do with my life.

Marks was positive that the Nets wouldn't have any problems getting everyone vaccinated before training camp began.

Tsai stated that "I don’t believe anything has changed." It was always a process to ensure that every player got vaccinated, from the summer through training camp, and then into the season. We discovered that Kyrie was not the only one who hadn't been vaccinated. We spent some time with him to try to understand his perspective and to also give him our perspectives on science and facts.

If Irving complies with New York City’s mandate, the Nets will be welcoming him back. Tsai, along with Kevin Durant (and James Harden) discussed Irving's eligibility to sign a four year, $187 million extension with Brooklyn when discussing the team’s future and play.

Tsai stated that he hoped Kyrie could be part of the team and Brooklyn in the long-term. "But I'm not going to get into that extension thing. We have to ask whether he is able to play this season. I hope he gets vaccined as soon as possible.