An anti-vaccine protest in New York in support of unvaccinated NBA star Kyrie Irving quickly escalated on Sunday as protesters broke down barricades and attempted to break into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Irving, who plays guard for the Brooklyn Nets, has vocally opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate enforced in New York City. While the Nets would be able to play Irving in road games where local vaccine mandates are not enforced, the team has decided not to play Irving in any games until he gets vaccinated.
“I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice,” Irving explained on Instagram Live. “And I would ask y’all just to respect that choice, and I am gonna just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates, and just be part of this whole thing.”
On Sunday, when the Nets were set to play their home opener against the Charlotte Hornets, protesters gathered outside barricades chanting “Let Kyrie play,” as ticketed fans were admitted into the game. Social media videos show the protesters breaking through and throwing barricades, leading security to lock down the arena doors and briefly cease taking tickets. Normal operations have since resumed as security got the situation back under control.
72% of New York City residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with approximately two-thirds being fully vaccinated. While the city was not exempt from the global surge in new cases thanks to the Delta variant, the 7-day case average has been trending down over the past month and dropped below 1,000 cases this past week. New York City officials haven’t shown any indications that it will lift the vaccine mandate in the foreseeable future.