Friday will be an expensive day for basketball star Kyrie Irving when his Brooklyn Nets host NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason friendly without him.
It is not injury or illness that rules the 29-year-old out of the match but coronavirus rules in New York that require vaccination to enter sport halls.
As Irving appears not to be vaccinated he will not play and, under agreement between the league and the players’ union, will forfeit his salary as a result.
Media in the United States calculate this will be $380,000 ($522,000) per game.
If Irvine misses all 41 home games of the season due to begin October 19 for this reason it will cost him more than $15 million ($20.5 million).
— NBA (@NBA) October 3, 2021
Officially the vaccination status of the exceptional Australian-born player is not known but all indications are he has not received a jab.
Even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has made a direct approach to him.
“I would just appeal to him, get vaccinated,” he said.
“Your fans want to see you. We all want you back. Your teammates want you back.”
Nets coach Steve Nash, however, seems able to count only on Kevin Durant and James Harden of his superstar trio and not Irving.
Should Irving refuse to change his position his Nets will be at a clear sporting disadvantage.
Kevin Durant on Kyrie Irving's vaccination status:
"I expect it not to be an issue. We trust in Kyrie and I expect us to have our whole team at some point." pic.twitter.com/DU4LbvbTHh
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 27, 2021
The group of players holding out against vaccination is decreasing, with US media now putting it around five per cent.
On average this leaves each team with one unvaccinated player on their roster though the effect this will have on them depends on local health rules, but rules are stricter for the unvaccinated everywhere.
In ice hockey’s NHL, it is believed 98 to 99 per cent of players have been vaccinated a week ahead of their season start with similar rules applying.
Daily tests, general obligation to wear masks and separate spots in the dressing and dining rooms are among restrictions which will apply in both leagues to those rejecting the vaccine.
NBA superstar LeBron James was an initial sceptic but has since confirmed he is vaccinated.
“The ultimate goal is to obviously win a championship,” the 36-year-old LA Lakers player said.
“And it starts with, obviously, health as the No.1 thing.
“We’re excited to know that we’ve given ourselves another opportunity to be available to each other, and that’s what it came down to.”
Andrew Wiggins of Golden State Warriors missed a home game in San Francisco due to similar rules in New York but his coach Steve Kerr later said he had been vaccinated.
Bradley Beal of Washington Wizards in contrast remains unvaccinated like Jonathan Isaac of Orlando Magic.