ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith rips Nets’ Kyrie Irving over vaccination stance: ‘Just flat-out stupid’

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith read the report about why Kyrie Irving remains unvaccinated. He isn’t buying the Nets star’s supposed explanation.

After Brooklyn announced Tuesday that Irving will not practice or play games with the team until he is “eligible to be a full participant,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania released a report revealing the details behind Irving’s stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. The seven-time All-Star is not anti-vaccine or anti-science, multiple sources told Charania, but he is concerned for people “losing their jobs due to vaccine mandates.”

MORE: Will Irving play this season? Latest updates on Nets star

“Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” one source told Charania.

(As NBC News’ Ben Collins noted, this is a common refrain among those in anti-vaccine groups online. Irving has not yet directly voiced his thoughts on vaccines, only saying at Brooklyn’s media day that he would “love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team.”)

During Wednesday’s edition of “First Take,” Smith went off on Irving, telling the panel of Molly Qerim Rose, Jay Williams and Marcus Spears that Irving’s reported reasoning for refusing to get vaccinated is “flat-out stupid.”

“I’ve been covering the NBA now for almost 25 years,” Smith said. “I mean, this is some of the stupidest nonsense I’ve ever seen. Just flat-out stupid. So, let me get this straight. So, if the reports are true — because we don’t know whether they are or not, OK. But let’s give credit to Shams and others who have reported this. It is what it is. Let’s go with that, OK? If it is true, Jay, if it is true, Marcus, so you don’t have a problem with taking the vaccine? Your position is that you’re gonna sit up there and compromise the championship aspirations of an organization you sign on to represent?

“You coaxed Kevin Durant into signing on to represent. You played a role in coaxing James Harden into signing on to represent. You’re gonna compromise all of that because you want to give a voice to the voiceless. Really? And how is that going to work out for you, Kyrie Irving? You’re going to disappear from the game of basketball? Who the hell is gonna be interested in what you have to say when have proven that you can’t even be trusted enough to do your damn job?”

Smith added that he believes Irving is intelligent and his “heart is in the right place,” but he is being far too self-righteous in his position.

“It not only makes you look hypocritical and untrustworthy. It makes you look what I know you are not, which is flat-out stupid,” Smith said. “It’s the stupidest thing that I think I’ve encountered with an NBA player. You’re gonna sit up there and not play and not take a vaccine that, evidently, you don’t have a problem with it, according to the report? You just want to give a voice to the voiceless? Really?”

Under the current New York City COVID-19 guidelines, unvaccinated Knicks and Nets players are not allowed to enter their home arenas for games. In a Tuesday statement, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks declared that, while the organization respects Irving’s choice, it will “not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice,” Marks said in the statement. “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.

“We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.” 

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