New York Mayor Eric Adams said Monday that he wants to see Kyrie Irving playing home games at Barclays Center but making an exception for the Brooklyn Nets' unvaccinated star guard "would send the wrong message" to the rest of the city.
Adams made his comments to CNBC and added that he has spoken with Nets owner Joseph Tsai about the issue.
"Listen, I want Kyrie on the court. I would do anything to get that ring. So badly, I want it. But there's so much at stake here. And I spoke with the owner of the team. We want to find a way to get Kyrie on the court, but this is a bigger issue," Adams said in the interview. "I can't have my city closed down again. It would send the wrong message just to have an exception for one player when we're telling countless number of New York City employees, 'If you don't follow the rules, you won't be able to be employed.'"
Adams' comments came a day after he announced in a statement that as long as COVID-19 numbers continue to decrease, the city is looking at March 7 as the date to remove vaccination requirements for "indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues." Adams said in his official statement, however, "All other vaccine mandates in New York City will remain in place at this time as they are, and have been, vital to protecting New Yorkers."
Adams agreed Monday that the current rule keeping Irving from playing home games "makes no sense" since away players who are unvaccinated are allowed to play in games in New York City. But even though he thought the rule as written is "ridiculous," he said "these are the rules and I have to follow the rules. If I don't, I'm going to open the door that is sending the wrong message to everyday employees."
Nets coach Steve Nash said neither he nor anyone else in the organization has had any more conversations with Irving about potentially getting the vaccine. Nash said he is going to let the front office handle how to interpret the latest updates from the city.
"Just waiting to see how it all plays out," Nash said before the game Monday against the Toronto Raptors. "It's not my domain to get involved in the policies and mandates, so I'll just wait patiently and hopefully we'll get some good news at some point."
Irving, who has been playing in road games for the Nets, said Saturday that he can see "light at the end of the tunnel" to a path where he can finally play at home this season. Irving also said he appreciated NBA commissioner Adam Silver's recent comments on ESPN's Get Up, where Silver defended Irving while noting that the mandate also "doesn't quite make sense" to him because unvaccinated players from opposing teams can play while Irving has to sit.
However, Irving's return to the Barclays Center court now may not be as near as he had thought.
"Businesses have their vaccine mandates. City employees have their vaccine mandates. I have to follow the rules. And trust me, I want Kyrie on the court," Adams told CNBC. "We are here right now opening our city because of vaccine mandates. We can't close down again. I can't have my city close down again."
ESPN's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.