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Kyrie Irving: Brooklyn Nets guard available for home games once more as vaccine exemption announced by NYC mayor

New York City's mayor announced on Thursday that he is exempting athletes and performers from the city's vaccine mandate

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Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has doubled down in his stance not to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus despite team-mate Kevin Durant's recent absence leaving the Nets worryingly short of quality players

Kyrie Irving is now available for Brooklyn Nets home games despite not being vaccinated, after new legislation was announced on Thursday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is exempting athletes and performers from the city's vaccine mandate for private workers.

It means Nets star Irving, who has been unable to play in home games, will be able to feature at Barclays Center.

Mayor Adams confirmed on Thursday that he had signed the order. The exemption was effective immediately.

"I'm going to make some tough choices. People are not going to agree with some of them." Adams said. "I must move this city forward."

Adams contended that making the athletes and performers exempt was important for the city's economic recovery, saying "players attract people to the stadium".

The city's sweeping vaccine mandate for workers still applies to people with other types of jobs, including government employees.

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Adams had said he felt the vaccine rule was unfair when it came to athletes and performers because a loophole in the measure, imposed under his predecessor, allowed visiting players and performers who do not work in New York to still play or perform even if they are unvaccinated.

Irving, a vaccine holdout, had been among the most high-profile people impacted. He was able to re-join the team in January but only when they played out-of-town games.

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Irving scored 43 points on Wednesday night on his 30th birthday in a 132-120 loss in Memphis after scoring a career-high 60 on March 15 in Orlando in the last game he was eligible to play. The Nets need him as they push for a playoff spot with nine games left in their regular season.

"It just turns the whole team around when he's out there," Nets star Kevin Durant said.

This month, concerns had been raised that the rule would also impact Major League Baseball.

Yankees star Aaron Judge refused to directly answer a question about his vaccine status earlier this month, leading to speculation that another New York team would be hobbled by a player's refusal to get inoculated.

When asked on Wednesday about a possible vaccine exemption, Judge said he was "happy Kyrie can play some home games".

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Adams has been rolling back vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions, including on Tuesday when he said masks could become optional for children under five starting on April 4.

Mask mandates for older children have already been removed, as well as rules requiring people to show proof of vaccination to dine in a restaurant, work out at a gym, attend a show, or go to an indoor sporting event.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made vaccination mandatory as a workplace safety rule last year, before leaving office.

All employers are supposed to bar unvaccinated workers from being in shared workplaces.

The city suspended numerous public employees for refusing to get vaccinated, including public servants like firefighters and sanitation workers.

The creation of special exemptions for athletes or entertainers could potentially lead to court challenges arguing the city is not applying the law evenly and critics of the mayor's decision, including several public employee unions whose members were fired for refusing to get vaccinated, criticised the mayor for seeming to lift the rule only for wealthy and famous athletes.

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