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New York City mayor partially lifts vaccine mandates for professional athletes

New York City Mayor Eric Adams makes an announcement at a news conference in Times Square in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., March 4, 2022.
Andrew Hofstetter | Reuters

New York Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday partially lifted a vaccine mandate that had kept some top athletes from playing in the city — while keeping the requirement for countless other workers.

Ballplayers and other performers got the green light to apply their skills in New York City even if they haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Adams said “the timing is exactly where it needs to be” to peel back some Covid requirements.

“Covid is a battle, our economy is a battle,” he told reporters at Citi Field in Queens, home of baseball’s New York Mets. “We need to recover our city from crime, from economic devastation, from uncertainty.”

New York has wide-ranging vaccine mandates that apply to those who do “in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business.”

Adams said it was unfair to athletes and other performers due to a loophole that allowed them, not based in New York City, to play in the five boroughs even if they’re not vaccinated.

“We were treating our performers differently because they lived and played for home teams?” Adams said. “It’s not acceptable.”

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The most high-profile beneficiary of this change would be Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who has been barred from suiting up when his team plays host to games at Barclays Center.

Irving has insisted that he’s “choosing what’s best” for him, by refusing shots that have been a valuable tool in slowing the spread of Covid-19 and lessening the impact on those who are infected.

The NBA playoffs are to begin in less than three weeks.

The Nets were supposed to be contenders for the NBA title but have been hampered by injuries and Irving’s absence. Still, Brooklyn is in the playoff picture and would benefit from Irving’s full-time play.

MLB’s Opening Day is set for April 7 with games that include the New York Yankees playing host to their ancient rivals, the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees and Mets both have key players who have refused to say whether they’ve been vaccinated, most notably Bronx Bombers outfielder Aaron Judge.

In advance of Adams’ announcement he was already facing withering blowback from those workers who are not famous, highly paid performers.

New York City’s largest police union blasted the expected announcement, saying those still under vaccine requirements are being treated as “second-class citizens.”

“If the mandate isn’t necessary for famous people, then it’s not necessary for the cops who are protecting our city in the middle of a crime crisis,” Police Benevolent Association Pat Lynch said. “They don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens now.”

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