Unruly protest over Nets' not letting unvaccinated Kyrie Irving play

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This article first appeared on CBS New York's website.

There was drama outside the site of the Brooklyn Nets home opener Sunday.

Protesters tried storming a Barclays Center entrance over the team's decision not to let star Kyrie Irving play because he won't get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Irving has said this isn't about being for or against vaccines, but "about being true to what feels good" for him.

Rally organizers said they were taking a stand against New York City's vaccine mandate.

Just before Sunday's 4 p.m. tipoff, barricades at Barclays Center entrances were removed.

A man dressed in red is seen on video summoning people to come in, and protesters using all their might try to break through a group of security guards who eventually get hold of them and close all the doors for a short time.

Ticketed guests already inside watched it all unfold.

The rally started hours before the game at a park about a mile away from Barclays.

It was organized by groups including Teachers for Choice as well as Rev. Kevin McCall and Black Lives Matter activist Hank Newsome, who marched to Barclays with signs.

Once there, McCall and Newsome got upset when they were told the DJ outside Barclays couldn't turn down the music for a few minutes -- and then dozens swarmed the plaza.

"Let Kyrie play!" some chanted.

The Nets have said Irving isn't allowed to play under the city's vaccine mandate, which requires at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor venues.

Irving, a Montclair, New Jersey native, said recently, "I am staying grounded in what I believe in. It is not about being anti-vax or about being on one side or the other. It is just really about being true to what feels good for me."

He also said, "This has everything to do with what is going on in our world, and I am being grouped into something that is bigger than just the game of basketball."

"This is against the mandate. They're trying to take away our freedom," McCall said.

Fans had mixed reactions.

When asked if the incident killed the vibe for him, Erick Trejo, who was visiting from St. Louis, said, "Oh, it sure did because that was the only person I came to see."

"It's a shame that someone who is that good is not playing," added Gabriel Munk of the Long Island village of Cedarhurst.

"He's doing what he needs to do for himself and his family, so I'm with him 100%," added Curtis Hll, who was visiting from Buffalo.

"I trust science. I believe in science. I feel like he should do it, but, hey, you know, I'm not even going to say to each his own. I feel like he should do it," said Nicholas Bailey of Chicago.

"I mean, he definitely should be vaccinated because, I mean, if you're a star figure, it's probably a good idea to set a good example," city resident Stefanie Rippenbaum said.

Without Irving, the Nets lost to the Charlotte Hornets, 111-95.

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