When the Brooklyn Nets take on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will not be  in their starting five. In fact, Irving will not even suit up for the team. 

Irving elected to not get vaccinated, going against New York City’s COVID-19 guidelines. According to the city government’s website, “As of Aug. 17, people 12 and older are required to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for: indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment.” 

“It’s not being anti-vax,” Irving said in an Instagram Live video. “It’s about what feels good to me. I’m feeling uncertain … and that’s OK. I know the consequences of the decision I make with my life.” 

In late September, league sources informed ESPN that 95% of NBA players are vaccinated. The NBA does not currently have their own vaccine mandate for players. Only three cities have vaccine requirements for indoor activity – New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco – which affects the Nets, Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and the Golden State Warriors, respectively. Surprisingly, the Staples Center, which is the home of the Lakers and Clippers, is exempted thanks to an existing health order. Unvaccinated players from visiting teams will not be restricted from any games even in the three cities. 

Other notable players that remain unvaccinated include Washington’s Bradley Beal and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. Though the NBA does not have a vaccine mandate, unvaccinated players will undergo many of the restrictions enforced by the league during last season, including daily testing for COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines.

Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins found himself in a similar situation as Irving, but eventually relented to getting vaccinated. “The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA,” Wiggins said. 

Lakers superstar Lebron James weighed in on the debate, saying that people should have the ability to make their own decision.

“I think everyone has they own choice — to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature,” James said. “I know that I was very [skeptical] about it all but after doing my research, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and my friends.”

Currently, the Brooklyn Nets will not permit Irving to participate with the team in any practice or games until he becomes a “full participant.” The Nets general manager Sean Marks announced that he would need to be eligible under New York City’s local vaccine mandate. Without the vaccine, Irving cannot use indoor gyms, including Barclays Center, automatically preventing him from participating in practice and home games. 

Originally, Irving received permission to practice with the Nets in New York which made him eligible for roughly half of the season’s games. However, Marks explained that the team decided that, for the best of all involved, the expectations of the players should be held constant across the whole team. Thus, it wasn’t fair to allow Irving an exemption when the rest of the team had complied and vaccinated accordingly.  Although there were multiple voices in the decision, he and team owner Joe Tsai were the deciding players in keeping Irving from playing part-time with the Nets. 

Irving has shared some thoughts on how he feels about the Nets decision through an Instagram Live; there has been no official media stance yet. Claiming that he could be exempted from the vaccine and play this season, Irving was hoping to just play ball and use his “talent to continue to inspire, influence people in the right way.”