Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is an outspoken athlete with a large platform who prides himself on putting his beliefs ahead of his career.
These traits resulted in the dynamic point guard being embraced by corporate media as a social justice warrior who risked his livelihood to stand up for what he thinks – until he elected not to get vaccinated against coronavirus and broke rank with the liberal elite who are in favor of staunch vaccine mandates.
Last year, Complex published a history of Irving’s social justice activism that praised him for supporting WNBA players, seeking justice for police shooting victim Breonna Taylor, resisting the NBA’s plan to play in a “bubble” at the height of the pandemic, donating vegan burgers to a food bank, standing with the Rock Sioux in 2016 by opposing the Dakota Access oil pipelines, and wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt in 2014 to honor Eric Garner.
Irving was the topic of segments on CNN and MSNBC when he led a group of NBA players who didn’t feel the league should take away from the Black Lives Matter movement that followed the killing of George Floyd. BET listed five times Irving used his platform to “fight the power,” glamorizing him for bringing “attention to issues that are bigger than the game,” and the liberal New York Daily News fawned over him for “putting humanity first.”
KYRIE IRVING BREAKS SILENCE ON VACCINE DRAMA: ‘I AM DOING WHAT’S BEST FOR ME’
Now he’s standing out in a different way for deciding not to get vaccinated, saying he felt it was the best decision for him.
The unvaccinated Irving is not eligible to play home games in Brooklyn because of a New York City mandate, so the Nets decided a part-time player isn’t in their best interest and sidelined him indefinitely. As a result, the glowing coverage Irving typically received for activism has turned into criticism. He is suddenly being called everything from “pathetic” to a “pawn” because of his stance on vaccine mandates.
“Kyrie Irving is being vilified for not falling in line with the establishment media’s predetermined stances,” DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News Digital.
“Establishment media don’t really respect individual voices today, but instead seek to force conformity of opinion in the false hope that will create cultural unity. No doubt Irving would be getting celebrated if he were publicly advocating for the mainstream media’s pet causes such as the green new deal, passing spending packages in Congress, opening borders, etc.,” McCall added. “Media outlets should certainly be on board with the concept of free expression, instead of scolding people who actually want to express their own ideas.”
The Athletics’ NBA insider Shams Charania first reported Tuesday that Irving “believes he is fighting for something bigger than basketball” and is upset that people are losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates.
Irving, who stands to lose half of his $35 million salary for skipping games over the vaccine rules, took to Instagram and offered his own explanation on Wednesday.
“This has everything to do with what’s going on in our world … you gotta put your livelihood on the line for a mandate that you don’t necessarily agree with. Nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies,” he said.
“I’m rocking with all those that have lost their jobs to this mandate and I’m rocking with all those that chose to get vaccinated and are choosing to be safe as well. I’m on both sides of all this,” Irving said, adding that people with opposing views on the vaccine need to come together.
“No more division,” he added.
NETS BAN KYRIE IRVING FROM TEAM OVER VACCINATION STATUS
Irving quickly turned into a villain to liberal members of the corporate media. He has been the subject of disparaging segments on CNN, MSNBC, and ESPN, and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson blasted Irving’s “self-pitying refusal” to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as “pathetic and dangerous” in a scathing column.
Outkick founder Clay Travis addressed what he said was hypocrisy in a series of tweets.
CLAY TRAVIS: KYRIE LOSING MILLIONS FOR STANCE, WHILE MEDIA ONLY SUPPORTS THOSE WHO PROFIT
CNN published a story headlined, “NBA star’s vaccine skepticism runs counter to racial justice stance.”
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has been one of corporate media’s most vocal critics of Irving’s decision.
“This is some of the stupidest nonsense I’ve ever seen. Just flat-out stupid,” Smith said Wednesday before belittling Irving’s rationale.
“You’re gonna sit up there and compromise the championship aspirations of an organization you signed onto represent … because you want to give a voice to the voiceless. Really? And how is that going to work out for you, Kyrie Irving? You’re going to disappear from the game of basketball,” Smith said. “Who the hell is gonna be interested in what you have to say when you have proven that you can’t be trusted enough to do your damn job?”
Smith was also invited on CNN to trash Irving to Don Lemon.
“As far as I’m concerned, to hell with you,” Smith said.
Lemon and CNN colleague Chris Cuomo launched on an extended rant against Irving on Tuesday night
“You have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s right the way you’re doing it. And that has just been lost in this perverse sense of prerogative that hey, I have the freedom — you have the freedom to walk into traffic. You know, we don’t suggest you do it,” Cuomo said.
“We need to have the moral rectitude in our leaders that we demand of ourselves as Christians in our communities,” Cuomo added. “So you’re not going to do something science tells you to do to keep yourself and others safe in your community out of some perverse sense of freedom just because you don’t have to?”
THE FIVE DEBATE KYRIE IRVING’S DECISION TO SIT OUT
Peacock host Rich Eisen, who took his “The Rich Eisen Show” to the NBC’s streaming service in 2020, also found an issue with Irving’s explanation that he wants to provide a voice to the voiceless.
“Who says they’re voiceless? Every single day it’s all I hear about,” Eisen said.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson questioned whether Irving refused other vaccines when he played college basketball at Duke University, and MSNBC host Joy Reid even called the point guard a “pawn for the alt-Right and MAGA army.”
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann tweeted that Irving’s explanation is both “bull and sh-t,” while liberal activist Jon Cooper shared a tweet mocking comparisons between Irving and iconic boxer Muhammad Ali.
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor feels that journalists are especially vicious against minority influencers who dare to think for themselves.
“It’s always the same whether it’s politicians like the late Herman Cain or stars like Kyrie Irving — the media only celebrate them if they are obedient to the left,” Gainor told Fox News Digital.
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“Conservatives have been highly critical of the woke NBA. But Irving and others are apparently waking up to the idea that government is too powerful and vaccine mandates are a bad idea – even if you support the vaccine,” Gainor continued. “I think it’s great that someone of his stature would put everything on the line not just for himself but for others. It’s 100% predictable that the media would try to destroy him.”
Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock is disgusted with the way the “brain-dead left” has covered Irving’s personal decision.
“’Pathetic,’ ‘dangerous,’ ‘flat-out stupid’ and a ‘pawn for the alt-Right and MAGA army.’ This is how the Left responds to an adult black gentleman expressing his serious personal reservations about injecting the COVID-19 vaccine into his own body,” Murdock said. “The Left could have engaged him with serious arguments about vaccine safety or the importance of ending this pandemic. Instead, they resorted to Kindergarten name-calling and juvenile ad hominem attacks.”
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.