Protesters supporting Brooklyn Nets goalie Kyrie Irving gathered outside the Barclays Center on Sunday ahead of the team’s home opener.
A few dozen people were in the plaza outside the arena, some chanting “Let Kyrie play!” Let Kyrie play! and holding signs saying “Stay with Kyrie”.
A small group even broke through the barriers and made their way to the main entrance to the building, forcing arena officials to briefly close the doors as fans tried to enter.
Irving is not with the Nets because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19. A New York warrant requires professional athletes playing for a city team to be vaccinated in order to play or train in public places.
The Nets could have allowed Irving to take part in road games, but they decided he wouldn’t be with the team until he was a full participant. Irving explained in an Instagram Live post that he was doing “what’s best for me.”
Protester Curtis Orwell said he and others are fighting for “bodily autonomy and sovereignty” and the right to choose what happens in their bodies.
“We also know a lot more than what we knew 18 months ago about the virus,” he said. “We have therapies that have been tried and proven to be very successful. Unfortunately, this kind of voice is totally suppressed and censored.
Orwell said he was not vaccinated and knew of people who had lost their jobs because they weren’t. “It doesn’t feel right to them and it’s OK,” he said. “We have to respect that. “
The Centers for Disease Control has repeatedly stated that vaccines are essential in preventing deaths from Covid-19.
There were plenty of empty seats in the arena as the game against the Charlotte Hornets was due to begin, although it was not clear if the turmoil in the plaza was the cause. The square has been fitted out with basketball hoops so fans arriving early can shoot and listen to musical performances.
“The Barclays Center briefly closed today in order to keep protesters away from the main gates in the square and to ensure that guests can safely enter the arena,” a spokesperson for the arena. “Only guests with a ticket were able to enter the building and the game went according to schedule. “