Kyrie Irving: 'Mask off' comment nothing to do with COVID

Kyrie Irving was the source of controversy last season when he took a 'pause' from playing basketball

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving raised eyebrows Wednesday when he made a remark about his mask being off and encouraging others to take theirs off as well.

While the tweet appeared to be innocuous at first, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic his tweet wasn’t exactly accepted.

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"My mask is off. Now take yours off. No fear," he wrote.

Irving was immediately criticized on social media as being anti-masks and anti-vaccines in the midst of the deadly pandemic.

The Nets point guard later clarified his tweet, saying he was trying to be metaphorical and took issue with those running with it.

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"‘Mask off’ means You stop being something you’re not and stop lying to yourself. It’s the moment you discover the real you and can walk around with NO FEAR in a society that shows a lot of the masks people wear to hide who they truly are," he wrote.

"Nothing COVID rule related!! Relax."

Since joining the Nets in the summer of 2019, Irving played his most games in a Brooklyn uniform in 2020-21. He appeared in 54 games and averaged 26.9 points and 6 assists per game.

His All-Star season didn’t come without some controversy. He faced criticism for taking a seven-game absence in the middle of the season while ESPN reported the NBA was looking into the circumstances around a family event he attended without a protective mask. He was later fined $50,000 for violating the league’s health and safety protocols.

When he returned, Irving said he needed personal time and time for family.

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"I’m a hometown kid so things hit a little different when family and personal stuff going on, and that’s up to me to handle that as a man," he said. "But yeah, I just take full accountability for my absence with the guys and just had a conversation with each one of them and we move on."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.