It was difficult to ignore the absence of a marquee player like Kyrie Irving when the Brooklyn Nets took on the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night of the NBA’s 75th anniversary year.
It was a topic of discussion on TNT’s Inside the NBA tip-off show and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley didn’t hold back.
He not only praised the Brooklyn Nets franchise for their decision to not allow Irving to play but also had his say on the point guard’s decision to not get vaccinated.
“I really am proud of the Nets for putting their foot down,” Barkley said. “For saying no, we’re not going to deal with this half on, half off (situation). The only thing that bugs me is he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home.”
Last week, the Nets organization announced their decision to not allow Irving to participate with the team unless he becomes eligible, which would require him to get at least one shot of the vaccine.
It’s the New York city’s vaccine mandate that would rule out an unvaccinated Irving from Nets’ home games at Barclays Center. That’s how and why Irving, who was slated to earn $34 million for the 2021-22 season, could be receiving only half of that sum.
“First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people,” he said. “I got vaccinated, I can’t wait to get the booster… You get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second. That’s what bothers me about this whole thing.”
Days after the Nets’ decision, Irving took to Instagram live to have his say.
“This is about my life and what I am choosing to do,” Irving said referring to his decision to not take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The financial consequences, I know I do not want to even do that,” Irving said. “But it is reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask you all to just respect that choice.”
While having his say, Barkley also shut down any comparison of Irving’s decision and sacrifice to that of Muhammad Ali by reiterating the sum Irving would receive despite not playing.
“People are saying he’s like Ali. First of all, don’t ever compare anyone to Ali. Ali went three years without boxing when he was the highest-paid athlete in the world. This guy is going to make $17 million sitting at home.”