By Ken Reed
The Brooklyn Nets have said thanks but no thanks to Kyrie Irving’s offer to be a part-time player for their team.
Due to public safety concerns regarding the pandemic, the unvaccinated Irving won’t be allowed to play games in New York. According to the city mandate, anyone entering an indoor gym/arena — including Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, the homes of the Nets and New York Knicks — must have had at least one COVID-19 shot.
It’s Irving’s right to say no to the mandate, and it’s also his right to forfeit half his salary. On the other hand, it’s also the Nets’ right to say we’re not interested in a part-time player in a team sport in which every other player and coach is sacrificing for the good of the team and working on a cause bigger than their individual wants and desires.
Decisions have consequences.
To be clear, I admire people who stand up for their principles — especially when they are in the minority. That takes courage. But this is more than a personal belief issue. It’s a public health issue. And Irving playing for the Nets without being vaccinated puts the health of teammates, opponents, officials, coaches, administrators and fans at risk.
In this society, we have freedom of belief but not freedom of behavior if that behavior endangers others. That’s why we have traffic lights, speed limits on roads and highways and no-smoking laws in public places.
According to team officials, Irving won’t be welcomed back to the team until he’s fully able to participate in team activities.
“He has a choice to make, and he made his choice,” said Nets’ general manager Sean Marks.
“We respect the fact that he has a choice and he can make his own right to choose. Right now, what’s best for the organization is the path we are taking …. They are never easy decisions, but at the end of the day, I think we are looking at putting a group of people that are going to be able to participate fully and that is what this comes down to. And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be half time.”
It’s pretty simple, the team comes first.
Former New York Yankees great, and current Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, beautifully articulated the importance of being a good teammate in sports and in life.
Team sports are really difficult things. Sometimes your team wins because of you, sometimes in spite of you and sometimes it’s like you’re not even there. That’s the reality of the team game. Then at one point in my career, something wonderful happened. I don’t know why or how . . . but I came to understand what “team” meant.
It meant that although I didn’t get a hit or make a great defensive play, I could impact the team in an incredible and consistent way. I learned I could impact my team by caring first and foremost about the team’s success and not my own. I don’t mean by rooting for us like a typical fan. Fans are fickle. I mean CARE, really care about the team . . . about ‘US.’
I became less selfish, less lazy, less sensitive to negative comments. When I gave up me, I became more. I became a captain, a leader, a better person and I came to understand that life is a team game. And you know what? I’ve found most people aren’t team players. They don’t realize that life is the only game in town. Someone should tell them. It has made all the difference in the world to me.
In a statement about the Irving situation, the Nets said:
“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction.”
Exactly. It’s all about being a teammate, one focused on helping and caring for others — on the court and in life.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
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Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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