Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

BROOKLYN, New York – Protesters supporting Nets guard Kyrie Irving and protesting against New York’s vaccine mandate were gathered outside the Barclays Center Sunday before the Brooklyn home opening.

A few dozen people were in the square outside the arena, some singing “Let Kyrie play! Let Kyrie play!” and hold signs that read “Stand with Kyrie.”

A small group even broke through barriers and came all the way to the main entrance to the arena about an hour before the tipoff.

A spokesman for the Barclays Center responded to the incident in a statement Sunday.

“The Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today to clear protesters from the front doors of the square and ensure that guests could safely enter the arena. Only ticket guests could enter the building and the game went according to plan,” the spokesman said.

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Irving is not with Nets because of his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A mandate in New York requires that professional athletes who play for a team in the city be vaccinated to play or practice at public venues.

The Nets could have allowed Irving to play in road games, but they decided he would not be with the team until he could be a full participant. Irving explained during an Instagram Live post that he did “what’s best for me.”

Protester Curtis Orwell said he and others fought for “bodily autonomy and sovereignty” and the right to choose what goes on in their bodies.

“We also know so much more than we knew 18 months ago about the virus,” he said. “We have therapies that have been tried and proven to be very successful. Unfortunately, such voices are suppressed and censored.”

Orwell said he was not vaccinated and knew some people who had lost jobs because they were not.

“It doesn’t feel right to them, and that’s ok,” he said. “We must respect that.”

There were many empty seats in the arena when the match against the Charlotte Hornets was to begin, although it was unclear whether the tumult in the square caused it. The pitch was decorated with some basketball hoops so fans who arrived early could shoot and listen to musical performances.

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