Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is no stranger to making strong political statements. For those who may be tardy to the party, Irving sat out one game in reaction to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. He also urged players to sit out games after the 2020 murder of George Floyd. And he said he wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless” by refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Now Irving has turned his attention to WNBA star Brittney Griner’s nine-year sentence in Russia. Irving is imploring President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to provide an update on the administration’s efforts to bring her back to the United States.
“What is truly happening with our Queen Brittney Griner? Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, please give us an Update,” Irving tweeted on August 4.
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Nets Rookie Sounds Off on Kyrie’s Decision
After his decision to not get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Nets sidelined Irving at the beginning of the 2021-22 season but eventually brought him back on a part-time basis after injuries on their roster became a factor. Still, Irving was unable to play games at Barclays Center for most of the season and ended up playing just 29 games overall.
His decision to remain unvaccinated was met with harsh criticism. However, Nets rising sophomore David Duke Jr. said he believed the criticism Irving has received is unwarranted.
“I feel that all the hate he gets, all the scrutiny, like all the criticism is as if he is not a human being as well, you know what I mean like if your best friend says they don’t get vaccinated, you’re not going to go and call them everything in the book cause they don’t wanna get vaccinated,” Duke said during an appearance on the July 19 episode of the “Club Ambition” podcast.
“Just cause he don’t wanna get the vaccine or he wants to stand on a belief, I don’t believe he should be criticized at all,” Duke said. “I love Ky. He’s one of the best human beings, and just that I know he stands on what he believes in and [is] super, like, humble. He’s very welcoming. He’s a nice dude, like, I don’t have any complaints about him.”
Ex-Nets Star Comes to Irving’s Defense
Because he takes stands on certain issues, Irving has received criticism in the media. Perhaps no pundit has been harder on Irving than ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who suggested in 2021 that he should retire.
Smith’s criticisms of Irving caught the attention of former New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets guard Stephon Marbury, who did not hold back when responding to the ESPN personality’s criticisms about Irving.
“I’m starting to think Stephen A. Smith thinks he’s a star for speaking the English language loud and obnoxious on TV,” Marbury said in May to Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports Network.
“I truly believe he’s upset that he couldn’t play ball in front of 19,000 people every night, so he reverted towards targeting (bash) people who look like him who have true intentions on earth to be real and authentic towards helping people.”