They Can Play, Not Everyone Is Cheering

Rich Mancuso

This COVID vaccine mandate pertaining to New York City professional athletes and employees was always regarded as a concern for safety. It was a mandate of priority and well being of others but there was controversy,

Leave it to the politics and those who decide mandates and there is controversy. I always questioned why visiting NBA talent was allowed to play at the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden regardless of their vaccination status.

I always questioned why the Nets’ Kyrie Irving was sidelined due to his status. One of many who were openly opposed to the vaccine, Irving put his team at a disadvantage at home while he was allowed to play on the road. Did that make a difference?

Irving could not play on his home court. Visiting teams and questions about unvaccinated players at Barclays Center went against the protocols and that became another nightmare. Leave it to the political spectrum of which I try to stay neutral, but this became a national headline and posed more questions.

Then New York baseball became an issue with the mandates. And days after players and owners concluded a nasty lockout, COVID mandates provided that nasty spin with reports that Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo were among the Yankees that would be prevented from playing baseball in the Bronx.

The Mets names were prominent. According to sources, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis and Dominic Smith would’ve been the ones that would not have been able to play at Citi Field if exceptions were not made.

The differences are conflicting mandates. Attempting to understand politics and mandates at times is more difficult than explaining a controversial call that goes to video replay officials with some of those final decisions logical and others not.

While I am an advocate of the COVID vaccines and booster shot, of which I say went without complications on my end, mandates and decision making regarding this should be a personal decision.

But this has been an entirely different situation because Irving, along with certain Yankees and Mets, created a controversy. They are now exempted from a vaccine mandate. They can play and perhaps this controversy should have never come to this point. Now, though, because hundreds of NYC municipal employees lost their jobs because they opposed a vaccine mandate, this is worse than a strikeout or foul that cost a game.

Those NYC employees and many who work behind the scenes at Barclays, the Garden, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, they will not get a reprieve and return to work. The NYC municipal employee, concession worker, and security personnel are now the victims.

And they are now in a fight, the NYC employee unions have renewed pursuing their legal options to be reinstated because Irving, along with certain Yankees and Mets, has been cleared to play on their home field and in the arena.

But, again, all along this mandate made no sense. It took the lobbying efforts of those connected to this political spectrum that led to Mayor Eric Adams changing his tune that was set by his predecessor in City Hall.

I always said, and have heard this, you are in bed with the politicians when it comes to the unions and hierarchy of city, state and the Federal government. I know a bit about the intricacies and logic that goes with NYC laws as a community advocate and one time member of a Bronx community board.

They who make the laws are not perfect. Ask the local restaurant owner, the owner of a property. Drive your vehicle or take public transportation in this city, examine the crime issue. All is not good and our lobbying efforts for change go unheard.

But this is sports, a totally different orbit . It’s supposed to be about fun and games and not about COVID mandates. Yet, as we look at the mandates that were lifted we should care that multi-million dollar athletes are back in play, because from a fan perspective you want Irving on the court or Aaron Judge in the batter’s box.

Then again, we should look at the double standard here, and care more about the city worker who served and protected during a pandemic, who lost employment because the vaccine mandate to them was not justified and now they begin their fight.

Except their fight will be difficult. They are not Kyrie Irving, or play ball in open stadiums at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. They will depend on their unions the next few weeks to justify their cause and will use the Irving, Mets, and Yankees as their legitimate and rightful argument.

I would prefer we get back to normal and talk about sports. We are getting back to normalcy in New York City, exactly what Mayor Adams said Thursday, and the baseball season is a major economic boost to the economy which in the end was a deciding factor to all of this.

One last thought on this. My longtime friend is a New York City Police Officer with a family, benefits, and a good pension. From the beginning he has not been a proponent of the vaccine but a mandate said there was no option.

That option was a vaccine. He made the right decision. He remains among the employed. But those city employees seeking reinstatement are not cheering for Irving, the Yankees, or the Mets. They deserve better.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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