News Story

Who’s The Flat-earther Now?

World-is-flat science and New York City’s vaccine mandates

On March 29, the Detroit Pistons will play the Brooklyn Nets at New York City’s Barclay Center.

Nets player Kyrie Irving will not be allowed to play in that game, unless a controversial New York City vaccine mandate is repealed. Irving has provided one of the season’s more intriguing stories, with his refusal to get a COVID vaccine. Or more precisely, the story involves the response by public health and other officials now being questioned.

According to the National Basketball Association, about 90% of its players are vaccinated. The league does not have a vaccine mandate.

Irving is no stranger to controversy. In 2018, he was forced to apologize for saying in an interview that he said the world is flat. During the COVID pandemic, he was forced by his team to sit out a season because he refused to get vaccinated. Eventually, Nets' officials changed their mind and let him play — but New York City’s vaccine mandate still barred him from playing in the team’s home games.

The New York City vaccine mandate states:

“Workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business must show proof that they have received a COVID vaccine. Businesses may not allow any unvaccinated workers to work at their workplace.”

New York City has lifted its vaccine mandate for indoor dining, fitness clubs and entertainment venues. Nothing prohibits unvaccinated fans from attending Nets games at the Barclay Center.

New York City continues, however, to impose a vaccine mandate on the employees of private sector businesses. But that rule only applies to the employees of city-based businesses. Unvaccinated NBA players who are on teams from outside the city may still play in the Barclay Center — but not Irving.

When Irving joined his teammates in the locker room after being forced to sit out a recent home game, the NBA fined the Nets $50,000 for violating the New York City mandate. Irving was allowed to sit outside the locker room, but going in meant he had entered his workplace.

Nothing in city policy would have prohibited unvaccinated fans from entering the Nets’ locker room after that game. While Irving was forbidden from playing in the game or entering the locker room, he could sit courtside within feet of his teammates. Those teammates, in theory, could also have been playing against an unvaccinated athlete from a competing team, because that person’s employer is not New York City-based business. And those opposing team's unvaccinated players would not have been prohibited from entering the Nets' locker room, unlike Irving.

New York City mayor Eric Adams admitted that he's "struggling" about what to do because he said it was unfair for hometown teams to have different rules than visiting teams.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.