Kyrie Irving Can Finally Play, but New York City’s Vaccine Mandate Double Standard Remains

New York City’s vaccine mandate for private employees will not apply to professional basketball players like Kyrie Irving, a noted vaccine-holdout from the Brooklyn Nets.

But if you’re not famous enough to get people to pay to watch you play or perform—or lucky enough to work alongside them—then, sorry, the mandate still applies.

This is the ridiculous and unfair outcome of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement Thursday. Adams created a loophole in New York’s nonsensical mandate for private employers to vaccinate their employees. Adams, the New York Mets’ home stadium, announced an executive order exempting workers from New York City’s arenas and concert venues. This will remove them from the broad mandate that both public and private employees must be vaccinated. The New York Post reports.

Since his office removed the indoor mask from the city and mandated vaccines in March 7, the mayor was under constant pressure to change or lift the mandate. Over the last few weeks, fans who are not vaccinated have been allowed into New York’s venues and performing arts centers, while Irving, a city-based athlete, has been barred from participating. He was permitted to see his team play though. This really brought home the point. the absurdityThis arrangement is acceptable.

Adams announced on Thursday that he was going to end the seemingly contradictory public-health policy. Perhaps it’s more accurate, however, to say his announcement is intended to stop the negative publicity surrounding this mess.

Irving will now be allowed to play. Adams won’t receive a constant stream of negative criticism. This won’t make it any easier for millions of New Yorkers that are still under the vaccine mandate. Under the new set of rules, for example, an unvaccinated bartender can serve drinks at Madison Square Garden or in a Greenwich Village music club—but she can’t work at any of the city’s other drinking establishments. Is there a public health reason for this distinction? It is clear that there aren’t.

The new rules make as much sense as the exemption that has always existed for visiting performers and athletes—an exemption that was widely criticized, even by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Adams believes that there’s a public health need to mandate vaccinations for bartenders and barbers as well as city workers and investors. So why aren’t stadium employees and basketball players at the same risk of becoming infected? There may be a magical COVID-preventing quality in the air circulated within the theaters and arenas of the city. This seems unlikely.

Rules that don’t apply equally to everyone should be avoided. This principle is fundamental to good governance.

New York City’s private employer mandate—like the similar one that the Supreme Court blocked at the federal level—probably never should have been imposed in the first place. It was and is an unjustified intrusion of government power into the private working arrangements made by employers and employees.

This is why creating loopholes or granting privileges doesn’t change anything. Irving may finally be able to play before his home fans but New Yorkers remain subject to non-sensical and ineffective vaccine regulations.