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Professional athletes take center stage in COVID-19 vaccine mandate debate

Professional athletes are taking center stage in the controversy over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some players are rejecting the vaccine, even if it means missing games and money.

News 12 Staff

Sep 29, 2021, 2:17 AM

Updated 1,022 days ago

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Professional athletes are taking center stage in the controversy over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Some players are rejecting the vaccine, even if it means missing games and money.
The New Jersey Devils will have its first game at the Prudential Center in Newark in about two weeks. But goalie Mackenzie Blackwood has revealed that he is not vaccinated. He is said to be the only Devils player who has not gotten the shot, which means there are different rules for him, including a different locker room area.
“It’s tough for me to be in the situation I’m in today because it puts a strain on teammates and staff, which I don’t enjoy,” Blackwood says.
Blackwood came down with COVID-19 last year and says that he hasn’t ruled out getting the shot. But without the vaccine, he would be forced to miss nine games in Canada. That country won’t have him if he is unvaccinated.
The NHL is not forcing players to get vaccinated, although most already are. New Jersey does not mandate it inside of sports arenas, either.
New York City does have a vaccine mandate for its sports arenas, meaning that all players on the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets must be vaccinated to play in home games.
New Jersey native and Nets player Kyrie Irving is at the center of this vaccine controversy. He won’t say if he is vaccinated or if he will get vaccinated. He has told reporters that it is nobody’s business and that he wishes to keep that information private.
“I think it's inappropriate, I think it's insensitive, I think it's selfish,” says Ed Bright, who coached Irving in AAU basketball when Irving was 15.
Bright says that Irving is setting a terrible example for the many teens who look up to him.
“Professional athletes that want to affect the communities, that want to be role models, that do say they care - to be missing this great opportunity, - they shouldn’t be allowed to play,” Bright says.
Bright says that he is thinking about another one of his former players – Piscataway’s Karl Anthony Towns. Towns has implored fans to get vaccinated. His mother died from the virus in April 2020, and nine months later he had a serious bout with the illness.
Irving’s base salary is about $35 million this season. If he violates New York City’s vaccine mandate and has to sit out on home games, he could lose $17 million.
The NBA says that almost all players will be vaccinated by the start of the season.


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