Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are the latest players to enter NBA health and safety protocols

Irving has been one of the NBA’s most prominent anti-vax voices

Less than 24 hours after the Brooklyn Nets said that it would be bringing back point guard Kyrie Irving as a part-time player, it announced that Irving and small forward Kevin Durant have been sidelined for COVID health and safety protocols.

On Friday, the team made the surprising announcement that Irving would return to games outside of New York and Toronto — the same day New York hit a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases.

The 29-year-old all-star has been one of the NBA’s most prominent anti-vax voices, leading to him being benched.

However, on Saturday, the Nets said that both players did not clear the league’s protocols, which includes that team members have two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.

UPDATED: Just as the news of Durant being added to the COVID list began to circulate, came word that unvaccinated Kyrie Irving has also been placed in the health and safety protocols. @krisplashed https://t.co/iaxAKNnQB0

— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) December 18, 2021

The back-to-back announcements shocked fans, as the New York team continues to maneuver around growing COVID concerns that have taken out some of its key players.

Irving has been ineligible to play or practice with the team since the start of the 2021 NBA season because of New York’s COVID protocols that would require him to take a vaccine.

In October 2021, the Nets also decided that he would not be on the roster as a part-time player either, seemingly making the player’s return to the team dependent on him getting vaccinated barring any changes to New York City’s vaccine mandate.

“Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves,” said Irving in an Instagram live responding to critiques of his decision to avoid the vaccine. “Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, it’s sad to see. People are losing jobs to mandates.”

He and Washington Wizard shooting guard Bradley Beal were two of the leading figures in the small minority of players that were holding out on the vaccine. 

The NBA required players to either get the vaccine or undergo daily COVID testing in order to play. Players also had to abide by the rules set by their team’s city as well.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving handles the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, in this Thursday, May 6, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The team’s decision to bring back Irving came after seven other players entered the NBA’s COVID protocols this past week, including forwards Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry, and guards Jevon Carter, Bruce Brown and NBA all-star James Harden.

For Durant, who was already scheduled to sit out of Saturday’s game against the Orlando Magic after an ankle injury, this is the third time he has been in the league’s protocols.

Both the NBA and the Players Association agreed to bump up testing starting December 26 following the national increase of COVID cases and the new omicron variant.

The increased measures will include players and staff being tested on game days. Those who got the booster shot within a particular time frame or those who have recently recovered from the virus will be exempt, according to the ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

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