Kyrie Irving asks others to respect his choice to remain unvaccinated and ensures he isn’t retiring after the Brooklyn Nets announced his will not participate in practices or games

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Kyrie Irving is speaking out about his "freedom" surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine after the Brooklyn Nets announced he will not participate in practices or games if he remains unvaccinated.

On Wednesday, the 29-year-old NBA star opened up about his decision to not get vaccinated while on Instagram Live, urging fans to respect his choice and not spread false narratives about his stance.

When contacted by PEOPLE the Brooklyn Nets said "no additional statement at this time."

"What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you have exemptions or that you didn't have to be forced to get the vaccine?"

Irving said to his followers. Irving went on to allege that his decision to not get the COVID-19 vaccine "wasn't an issue before the season started."

2021 NBA All Star Players
Kyrie Irving
| Credit: NBAE/Getty

"This wasn't something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family," he continued on Instagram Live."I chose to be unvaccinated. And that was my choice," he added. "And I would ask y'all just to respect that choice."

In August, New York City implemented new guidelines that would bar anyone over the age of 12 from entering "covered premises" in the city, which includes the Nets' arena in Brooklyn, without showing proof of having received the coronavirus vaccine.

"I'm staying grounded in what I believe in," Irving said during his Instagram Live. "It's not about being anti-vax or about being on one side or the other. It's about being true to what feels good for me. I'm still uncertain about a lot of things. And that's OK. If I'm going to be demonized about having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, then that's just what it is."

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
| Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty

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According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, at least 95 percent of NBA players had been vaccinated against COVID as of Sept. 30. Irving has been the most prominent of holdouts, which include: Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards (who recently said he is considering getting the vaccine), among others.

Last month, Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, issued a statement about how players without the COVID-19 vaccine will not be paid for the games they are forced to miss due to their vaccination status. 

During his Instagram Live, many followers pointed out Irving's hefty salary that could be at stake. ESPN reports that if the basketball star misses every game this season, he could lose over $17 million. However, Irving said he's standing his ground regardless.

"It's not about the money, baby," he said. "It's about choosing what's best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship?" 

Irving continued, "It's not about the Nets. It's not about the organization. It's not about the NBA. It's not politics. It's not any one thing that I'm pinpointing. It's just about the freedom of what I want to do."

On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks said the organization respected their star point guard's choice while announcing he would not play until he is fully vaccinated.

"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose," Marks said in a statement. "Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability."

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Marks said it was "imperative" that the team continues to build chemistry with each other and "remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice" as the season begins.

"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," he added.

The Nets' season-opening game kicks off on Tuesday against defending NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Though he will not be in attendance, Irving ensured that he's not retiring anytime soon.

"Don't believe that I'm going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated," he told his Instagram followers.