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Greg Cote: If sports had a spine, unvaccinated athletes such as Kyrie Irving wouldn’t be allowed to play

Greg Cote: If sports had a spine, unvaccinated athletes such as Kyrie Irving wouldn’t be allowed to play

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Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets calls a play during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on May 15, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Kyrie Irving (11) of the Brooklyn Nets calls a play during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on May 15, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS)

MIAMI — The NBA steps into its third season affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, poised to welcome back full arenas as America and sports take off the masks, replace them with blinders and pretend the public health crisis of our time is over even though all know it is not.

If you want to know why it is not, look around. There are 100 million examples among us. They are the willfully unvaccinated. They are trapping us in this nightmare with their astounding, selfish ignorance.

If you want the perfect example of this, the new face of the problem, basketball star Kyrie Irving is raising his hand to volunteer.

So the Brooklyn Nets star did not attend the team’s pretraining camp media day this week because he could not. That is because the city of New York, taking the pandemic more seriously than, say, Florida, wisely does not allow unvaccinated people inside sports arenas or other indoor venues.

Irving in explaining his antivax stance made three statements: Dumb, dumber and dumbest.

“Please respect my privacy.”

“The last thing I wanted to create was this hoopla and distractions.”

”I think we put too much trust in doctors and medical staff.”

No, Kyrie, we do not respect your privacy because this is not a private matter. It is a public matter, a health crisis that when last I checked Wednesday had killed 711,222 Americans — enough to fill every arena in the NBA and then some. Your “personal decision” affects more than just you. It affects your teammates, for example.

(And how ironic that a professional athlete of all people, raised on the principle of team first, would clearly put himself first at the expense of teammates).

The last thing Irving wanted was to create a distraction, he claims, yet he is doing the one thing guaranteed to do just that.

As for not trusting doctors (and science), there are no words. The national fatigue on such willful, stubborn, ill-informed stupidity has run its limit.

As one veteran NBA assistant coach is quoted by ESPN: “Everyone who is vaccinated should be pissed at those who aren’t. Not requiring NBA players to be vaccinated is [expletive]-.”

Generations from now, our grandkids are going to be talking to their kids about the COVID years and imagine the conversation...

Parent — “No, it’s true. The virus had killed almost a million people in the United States. The vaccine against it was effective, and prevalent, and free. And yet more than one-third of all Americans simply refused to get it.”

Child — “But why?”

Parent — “Nobody ever knew. They called it a personal decision and kept saying, ‘Respect my privacy’.”

In an adult world, every sports team in every league would join those who now insist fans show proof of vaccination to attend games.

In an adult world, the NFL, NBA and their unions would tell players they must be vaccinated to play.

Instead, Irving threatens to sit out every Nets home game rather than comply. There is nothing noble about his stand. The opposite. He should be booed from coast to coast, including by Nets fans.

The NBA is cloaked in embarrassment as its new season nears even though some 90 percent of players are vaccinated — because it’s the relative few who aren’t that have support staff like trainers and equipment people rightly concerned.

LeBron James finally got vaccinated this week but said advocating for others to do so is “not my job.”

Wrong. Sports and its stars have abdicated their opportunity to be leaders in the pro-vaccine fight. Have you seen stars align for public service announcements? Me, neither. Just silence. Crickets. And “please respect my privacy.”

The majority of us try to do the right thing for all of us.

Yet because the Kyrie Irvings are out there, rebels without a clue, the pandemic of the unvaccinated drags on.

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