Sources: NYC mandate to be rolled back Thu.
6: 05 PM ET
New York Mayor Eric Adams will lift the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on athletes Thursday, paving the way for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving to play at the Barclays Center on Sunday and for unvaccinated New York Yankees and Mets players to play in their April home openers, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN on Wednesday. The mandate that was in place for all private businesses in the area would be repealed for professional athletes and performers. It would be a follow-up to discussions that had given hope for the NBA and MLB teams that this long-awaited move would become a reality.
Adams, who was sworn in Jan. 1 and has eased the city’s COVID-19 policies since, said Tuesday: “Baseball, basketball, businesses — they have to wait until that layer [of progress] comes. The wait is not expected be too long. The Nets, currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and subject to the play-in tournament that begins April 12, would get back Irving, who has been kept out of their 35 home games this season. Irving turned 30 on Wednesday and is averaging 27.7 points in 19 games this season.
His absence has dominated headlines about the mandate, though the approach of Opening Day — the Yankees’ home opener is April 7 and the Mets’ April 15 — ratcheted up pressure, with multiple unvaccinated players on both teams.
Because MLB has the lowest vaccination rate of the four major men’s professional sports, baseball officials were working with the mayor’s office, according to sources, to push for updates to the mandate. Unvaccinated players on road teams have been allowed to play against the Nets and New York Knicks, and would have been eligible to participate against the Yankees and Mets as well.
Adams’ announcement Thursday will take place at 11: 30 a.m. ET at Citi Field.
Unvaccinated baseball players are expected to miss their teams’ games against the Toronto Blue Jays — and the salary and service time that come with them — after the league and union agreed that Canadian entry rules would preclude them from playing there. The Yankees play 10 games in Toronto this season.
Before this expected update to the mandate, the unvaccinated Yankees or Mets were not allowed to “enter NYC Club facilities.” These facilities include “the clubhouse and training rooms, weight and hitting rooms, as well as outdoor playing fields areas,” according to a memo obtained by ESPN earlier this week from the MLB Players Association.
During a COVID-19 outbreak on the Nets in January, Irving stood firm in his decision not to receive the vaccine, telling reporters: “In terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision. That’s exactly what it is. “
A rollback of policies of former Mayor Bill de Blasio by Adams included an April 4 lifting the mask mandate for day care children. Adams suggested Tuesday that there would be amendments to the policy, although he didn’t commit to any further changes.
” We’ll do it the right way,” Adams stated Tuesday. “We’re going follow the science… we’ll make the right decision. And in New York, no matter what you do, this is 8.8 million people and 30 million opinions, so you’re never going to satisfy New Yorkers, so you must go with the logic, your heart and the science. “
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