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Kyrie Irving, Conspiracies and His Enduring Will to Make a Point

In a season of controversy, Kyrie Irving takes his elite game to the court...finally.

There are many things one can say about Kyrie Irving, both about his on-the-court performance and his off-the-court personality. Irving is a charismatic man as much as he is mercurial. He is as fortitudinous as he is fleeting. He is one of the most talented players in the NBA, however.

The Brooklyn Nets star is indefinitely a part-time player. New York City currently has a vaccine requirement not allowing Irving to play in home games. This means his home team fans will not see him suit up and play at the Barclays Center this season. 

Past Histories

It's important to go back a little bit. Then we'll go back a lot. Irving does not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. His reasons are a mixture of chaotic, poignant, and shortsighted. Calling him 'anti-vax' would be unfairly reductive. Saying that Irving's reasons are confusing would be more accurate but only because he communicated those reasons in vague Instagram posts, from somebody else's mouth, or implied activism. 

An anonymous source told The Athletic back in October that Irving wants to be “a voice for the voiceless." Irving did not further explain that reason, which leaves only speculation.

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Was Irving referring to the boastful martyrs, losing their jobs for choosing to remain unvaccinated, putting those around them in danger? It is worth noting that the CDC, the American Medical Association (AMA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have stated that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting against severe sickness and death, while also being safe. More than one peer-reviewed study has stated that 99% of people in the ICU in hospitals are unvaccinated. 

It would be easy to combine this line of reason with Irving's past statements involving science. It would be a flat-out (sorry) disservice not to be reminded of Irving's statements that he believed the earth to be flat.

"When I started actually doing research on my own and figuring out that there is no real picture of Earth, not one real picture of Earth—and we haven't been back to the moon since 1961 or 1969—it becomes like conspiracy, too."

Context For Irving, Context For History

Irving's statements on the earth being flat are completely preposterous and wrong. There's no way to dance around that. Irving's statements about the vaccine are also contrary to science and reason, but there's historical precedence that Irving may be referring to, and it's a fair charge. "The Tuskegee Syphilis study was a study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a group of nearly 400 African Americans with syphilis. The purpose of the study was to observe the effects of the disease when untreated, though by the end of the study medical advancements meant it was entirely treatable. The men were not informed of the nature of the experiment, and more than 100 died as a result."

This happened not long ago. Many NBA fans were alive while this was still going on and it is another abhorrent event in American history. It is not the only type of event like this in American history, or even around the world in the same century. African-Americans have been treated as second-class citizens and even subhuman in this country, and Irving's point (if that is his point) on this topic is real and worth paying attention to. 

First Game Back

Irving's first game back saw Brooklyn rally for a 129-121 victory, as he scored 22 points in 32 minutes. The Nets are now 24-12 and are looking like a team poised to go to the playoffs. How are they going to have any cohesion if Irving can't play at home? Do they even want a home-court advantage since Irving can't play there? The questions are only going to grow as the games become more high leverage. It will be something to follow.

Irving's Point

Unfortunately, Irving's responsibility as a player and as someone who is around so many people has to supersede what he's standing for. It just does. It's uncomfortable. It's difficult for many. It is, however, necessary. 

The benefits exponentially outweigh any risks that have been conspiracy theorized and reported. Irving's point should be taken and discussed, however. In the recent years of Black Lives Matter and the continual discussion of the race problems our society has, it's a point worth paying attention to and addressing. Irving's choices have admirable intent, and if we don't at least acknowledge his stance, we're also doing a disservice to him and the marginalized who came before him.