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Why Kyrie Irving’s stance on the vaccine is not likely to sway fans

"I’m all in with Kyrie," said one fan. "He can do what he wants, but I’m telling everyone to get the vaccine."
Image: Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game against the Lakers in Los Angeles on on Oct. 3, 2021.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game against the Lakers in Los Angeles on on Oct. 3, 2021.Kevork Djansezian file / Getty Images

DeAndre Washington of New Jersey considers himself a “straight up Kyrie Irving fanatic.” He wears sneakers named after the Brooklyn Nets guard and owns jerseys from each of the NBA teams Irving has played on.

“I’m all in with Kyrie,” Washington, 31, said.

But Washington is not in alignment with Irving’s stance on not getting one of the three Covid-19 vaccinations — leading the Nets to sidelining Irving until he does.

“He can do what he wants, but I’m telling everyone to get the vaccine,” Washington added. “We know athletes can have influence. But I don’t think his position on the vaccines will make anyone decide they don’t want to take it because he lives in a different world from NBA fans.”

Because 77 percent of eligible Americans have already gotten at least one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson, Irving’s stance is not likely to sway the numbers in a significant way.

However, Los Angeles psychologist Shaunda Boyd said the authority many celebrities have on the public could affect some who are undecided on the vaccine — although Irving has never advised others to not take it.

Celebrities’ “behaviors carry an enormous amount of weight due to their platforms and social media presence,” Boyd said. “It’s essential to remember celebrities are people, too. Their celebrity facilitates an unspoken sense of responsibility. However, they too are entitled to make personal life choices and cope with their choice’s ramifications and benefits.”

Irving clarified his stance on social media this week as pundits and fans weighed in, speculated and questioned his decision.

“It’s not being anti-vax,” the all-star guard said on an Instagram Live video. “It’s about what feels good to me. I’m feeling uncertain … and that’s OK. I know the consequences of the decision I make with my life.”  

“I am doing what’s best for me. I know the consequences here and if it means that I’m judged and demonized for that, that’s just what it is,” he added.

“If you choose to get the vaccine, I support you. Do what’s best for you. I continue to pray for all those out there who have lost people to the pandemic to Covid.”

Gerald Early, a cultural critic and professor of African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said Irving is following a path of Black athletes who were dissidents.

“In the course of history, Black people in general and athletes in particular have stood up as individual people for a particular belief or principle that was against the popular opinion,” Early said. “And they had to pay for it. Muhammad Ali with not going into the draft or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee come to mind. Not equating them to each other at all. Their actions had impact on people and the choices they made. I’m not sure Kyrie’s would have the same influence, for one, because so many people already have taken the vaccine.” 

Irving said this week: “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job?”

“This is not about the Nets. This is not about the NBA. It’s not politics. It’s not any one thing. .. It’s just about the freedom of what I want to do.”

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