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Nets hope for NYC vaccine mandate change so Kyrie Irving can play

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and New York City mayor Eric Adams weigh in on the city's vaccine mandate.

Kyrie Irving, who remains unvaccinated, rejoined the Nets in a part-time capacity for road games in December.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets are hopeful of a change to a local vaccine mandate that would make Kyrie Irving available for home games, one that New York City’s mayor is “struggling” with whether to make.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday he believed Mayor Eric Adams should look at the mandate, which requires athletes playing for the city’s teams to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to play in public venues.

Adams later agreed that there were problems with the rule, which doesn’t apply to visiting players, but said he is hesitant to make a change.

The Nets hope he will.

“Obviously, we’re hopeful but it’s really out of our hands,” coach Steve Nash said before the Nets beat the Knicks 111-106 at Madison Square Garden without Irving.

“We just have to be patient and hope that the oddity of it prevails in a sense, but that’s not in my job description to write the city and state mandates. So I think we are hopeful and we’re patient and we’ll wait for hopefully the best outcome, but whatever outcome it is out of our hands.”

Silver said it’s odd that the mandate only applies to players on the local teams while an unvaccinated opponent is allowed to play.

“I mean, I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who’s unvaccinated can play in Barclays but the home player can’t,” Silver said in an interview with ESPN.

Adams was asked at a news conference later about Silver’s comments and whether he might adjust the rule. Adams, the former Brooklyn Borough president, said he was struggling with the contradiction, which also allows unvaccinated entertainers from out of town to perform in the city.

“I think the rule is unfair. I believe that we are saying to out-of-town athletes that they can come in and not be vaccinated. Yet New York athletes, you have to be vaccinated,” said Adams, who replaced former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who imposed the city’s vaccine requirements last year.

“But I am really, really leery about sending the wrong message,” Adams said. “Having this city close down again keeps me up at night. And the message was put in place, the rule was put in place. To start changing it now, I think it would send mixed messages. So I’m struggling with this, just to be honest with you.”

More than 95% of NBA players are vaccinated. The Nets originally didn’t let Irving play in any games until he was cleared to play in all of them but reversed their decision in December when the team was short-handed after a coronavirus outbreak on the team.

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Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.