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Mayor Eric Adams exempts NYC athletes from vaccine mandate after Kyrie Irving controversy reaches critical mass — but other city workers aren't so lucky

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Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images (left); Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images (right)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced an exemption on Thursday for city-based athletes and performers from NYC's vaccine mandate following plenty of pressure, most notably the bad optics of NBA star Kyrie Irving being barred from playing in Brooklyn Nets' home games — yet being allowed to enter the Nets' arena as a spectator and sit courtside.

Other city workers are still required to abide by the mandate, however, and leaders of their unions aren't happy, the New York Post reported.

What are the details?

The paper said the exemption for athletes and performers is effective immediately.

“Being healthy is not just about being physically healthy, but being economically healthy,” Adams said at Citi Field, according to the Post. The stadium is the home of major league baseball's New York Mets.

The mayor, prior to his announcement, said he's "going to make some tough choices. People are not going to agree with some of them. I must move this city forward. Generals lead from the front. I was not elected to be fearful, but to be fearless," the paper added.

The Post said New York City's vaccine mandate — which resulted in more than 1,400 employees getting fired — still applies to municipal and private-sector workers. Adams added that he's not planning to rehire them, the paper reported.

The mayor said the exemption was needed because New York City — heavily reliant on the tourism — "has to function," the Post noted.

“We’re leading the entire country, for the most part, in unemployment,” he added, according to the paper. “We’re seeing unbelievable vacancies in our business district.”

The Post reported that Adams also said the provision exempting out-of-town athletes and performers from the mandate wasn't fair to the city's own athletes and performers.

“This is about putting New York City-based based performers on a level playing field,” he said, according to the paper. “Hometown players had an unfair disadvantage.”

The Kyrie Irving controversy

Earlier this month, Irving strutted into Barclays Center — the Nets' home arena — in his street clothes and watched his teammates play from a courtside seat. He wasn't injured, but he was unvaccinated — and therefore barred from playing in New York City. Yet, like other fans, he could enter the arena and sit a few feet from players — as if the COVID virus can't travel that far. Visiting unvaccinated players were allowed to take part in the contest, too.

Irving's teammate Kevin Durant demanded that Adams make things right.

"It's ridiculous," Durant said after the game. "I don't understand it at all. There's a few people in our arena that's unvaxxed, right? They lifted all of that in our arena, right? So I don't get it ... I don't get it. It just feels like at this point now, somebody's trying to make a statement or a point to flex their authority. But everybody out here is looking for attention, and that's what I feel like the mayor wants right now, is some attention. But he'll figure it out soon. He better."

Durant added, "But it just didn't make any sense. There's unvaxxed people in this building already. We got a guy who can come in the building, I guess, are they fearing our safety? I don't get it. We're all confused. Pretty much everybody in the world is confused at this point. Early on in the season people didn't understand what was going on, but now it just looks stupid. So hopefully, Eric, you got to figure this out."

NYC Mayor Eric Adams lifts COVID-19 vaccine rules for pro athletes, performers youtu.be

Other city workers still under mandate: 'Like second-class citizens'

Leaders of several municipal unions on Thursday ripped Adams for enacting a double standard that favored famous people, the Post reported.

Patrick Lynch, president of the 24,000-member Police Benevolent Association, said that "if the mandate isn’t necessary for famous people, then it’s not necessary for the cops who are protecting our city in the middle of a crime crisis,” the paper reported.

“While celebrities were in lockdown, New York City police officers were on the street throughout the pandemic, working without adequate PPE and in many cases contracting and recovering from Covid themselves," Lynch added, according to the Post. "They don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens now.”

Paul DiGiacomo, head of the NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Union, said Adams’ decision “doesn’t make sense," the Post noted.

“The objective, scientific findings do not support giving athletes one option and New York City detectives another option,” DiGiacomo added, according to the paper.

Harry Nespoli — president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and chair of the umbrella Municipal Labor Committee — said "there can’t be one system for the elite and another for the essential workers of our city,” the Post reported.

Nespoli also noted that city workers fired for refusing vaccine shots should be rehired, the paper said: “When New York City shut down, many workers were mandated to come in every day without vaccines to keep the city running. These workers often got sick, and when they got better, came right back to work.”

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