NEW YORK – The mayor of New York City has exempted athletes and entertainers from the city’s vaccine mandate following weeks of pressure from the sports world after the law prevented Brooklyn Nets star, Kyrie Irvingplayed in home games and was expected to block several unvaccinated baseball players from taking the field at their local parks in the upcoming season.
Mayor Eric Adams, speaking at Citi Field where the Mets play, said Thursday that he signed the order. The waiver went into effect immediately.
“I’m going to make some tough decisions. People won’t agree with some of them,” Adams said. “I must get the city going.”
Adams maintained that exempting athletes and entertainers was important to the city’s economic recovery, saying “players bring people to the stadium.”
The city’s broad vaccine mandate for workers will continue to apply to people with other types of jobs, including private workers and government employees. Critics of the mayor’s decision, including several public employee unions whose members were fired for refusing to be vaccinated, criticized the mayor for appearing to lift the rule only for rich and famous athletes.
The Municipal Labor Committee, a group of unions that together represent some 350,000 city workers, said the city should offer a way for laid-off workers to get their jobs back. The city’s largest police union, which sued the city over the mandate, said its officers “do not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens.”
Last month, the city laid off more than 1,400 workers who failed to comply with the vaccination mandate. The uneven application could likely invite more legal challenges to the mandate.
Adams’s predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, made vaccinations a mandatory workplace safety rule last year before leaving office.
Adams had said he felt the vaccine rule was unfair when it came to athletes and entertainers because of a loophole in the measure, imposed by his predecessor, that allowed visiting players and entertainers who don’t work in New York to continue playing. or acting even if they are not vaccinated.
Irving was among the most high-profile people affected. He was able to rejoin the team in January, but only to play away games. When New York lifted rules several weeks ago requiring the vaccine to dine at a restaurant, work out at a gym or attend a show, Irving was allowed to attend and watch Nets home games but not play or enter to the locker room.
The Nets need him as they fight for a playoff spot with nine games remaining in their regular season.
Concerns had been raised that the rule would affect Major League Baseball as well.
The star of the New York Yankees, Aaron Judgerefused to directly answer a question about his vaccination status earlier this month, prompting speculation that another New York team would be affected by a player’s refusal to get vaccinated.
Asked Wednesday about the rule lifting, Judge said he was “happy Kyrie gets to play some home games.”
The Yankees, who open their season at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 7, said earlier this month that the team president was “working with the city and all other appropriate officials on this matter.” The Yankees declined to comment Wednesday.
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen donated $1.5 million to a political action committee supporting Adams during his 2021 campaign. Adams is a fan of the Mets.
Adams has been rolling back vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions, including on Tuesday when he said masks could become optional for children under 5 starting April 4.
Already removed are mask mandates for older children, as well as rules that require people to show proof of vaccination to dine at a restaurant, work out at a gym, attend a show or go to an indoor sporting event.
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NYC authorizes unvaccinated athletes to play at home