New York City mayor to lift vaccine mandate for performers and athletes: reports

Brooklyn Nets unvaccinated guard Kyrie Irving was not permitted to play in any games in New York City this season because of the mandate

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams is expected to announce a major policy change Thursday that will lift a coronavirus vaccine mandate for performers and athletes, allowing the unvaccinated to play professional sports in the city, according to multiple reports.

Teams in the Big Apple had been awaiting a rollback of the private employer mandate that prohibits unvaccinated employees from working in person. The mandate prohibits athletes unvaccinated against COVID-19 from playing games in New York. 

Adams is expected to reverse the mandate for performers and athletes in local venues in New York City, including Citi Field in Queens, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Politico reported. Those venues are home to the New York Mets, New York Yankees, and the Brooklyn Nets.

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Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who is unvaccinated, was not permitted to play in any games in New York City this season due to the mandate. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chimed in on the rule last month, saying it "doesn’t quite make sense."

"This law in New York, the oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players," Silver said. "I think if ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away player who is unvaccinated can play in Barclays, but the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance."

The Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving reacts after hitting a shot in a game against the Indiana Pacers Jan. 5, 2022, in Indianapolis.

The Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving reacts after hitting a shot in a game against the Indiana Pacers Jan. 5, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Irving, who made it clear he wasn't going to be vaccinated, may make his home debut Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets.

The expected announcement also comes just prior to the start of baseball season. The home opener for the Mets is scheduled for April 15, while the Yankees host the Boston Red Sox on April 7. 

Players on both the Mets and Yankees have been awaiting news from City Hall in regard to the mandate. Last week, Aaron Judge refused to directly answer a question about his vaccine status.

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge shares a laugh with teammates during a spring training workout March 14, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge shares a laugh with teammates during a spring training workout March 14, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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"I’m still focused on just getting to the first game of spring training," Judge said at the team's Florida training complex. "So I think we’ll cross that bridge after the time comes. But right now, so many things could change. So I’m not really too worried about that right now."

Since taking office, Adams has been relaxing COVID-19 policies put in place by former Mayor Bill de Blasio. Last week, Adams said he expected to eventually roll back the city’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for private sector employers.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention in New York Feb. 17, 2022.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during the New York State Democratic Convention in New York Feb. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

"We're going to do it in the right way," Adams said Wednesday, according to ESPN. "We're going to follow the science ... we're going to make the right decision. And in New York, no matter what you do, this is 8.8 million people and 30 million opinions, so you're never going to satisfy New Yorkers, so you must go with the logic, your heart and the science."

Adams noted he was focusing on his city as a whole, not just the athletes who play there. 

"Everyone is focused on the sports area. They’re focusing on one person. I’m focusing on 9 million people," the mayor said last week. "I’m not looking at one person. I’m looking at my city not closing down again."

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Adams has already announced plans to lift the mask mandate on April 4 for toddlers in city day care centers.