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Shaquille O'Neal wouldn't tolerate having unvaccinated Kyrie Irving as a teammate. O'Neal gave his thoughts on the matter, saying he would tell Irving to "get your ass up out of here" if O'Neal played for the Brooklyn Nets.
O'Neal laid out his argument on "The Big Podcast with Shaq." O'Neal emphasized getting the COVID-19 vaccine should be about the team and not about Irving. O'Neal added that he wouldn't be able to deal with a player who wouldn't be available for half the season, especially if the team had championship aspirations.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 30, 2021
O'Neal's full comments read:
"I try not to belittle another man's opinion. However, let me tell you what I think. In this game of ours, sometimes you have to think about other people rather than yourself. Now, Kyrie has his views. He has his opinions. I'm not going to knock that, but he does have an obligation, because he took that 200 million.
"Only thing I don't like is, 'Oh, can you, you know, respect my privacy?' Once you sign up for this life, there is no privacy, and you have to accept it.
"But if you're on my team and you can't play home games, I don't want you around. Like, we have a chance to win and if you ain't on the program, go somewhere else, period. Hey, whatever your reasons are, cool, I'm with that, but we ain't gonna be going back and forth for 41 games whether you gonna play or not. Get your ass up outta here."
O'Neal made similar comments on "Tiki and Tierney" on Wednesday.
"I would go upstairs and say 'get (Kyrie) up out of here. Get him outta here'... Whoever owns the Nets, get his ass up outta here"@SHAQ says #nets have to trade #kyrie if he doesn't get vaccinatedhttps://t.co/aYyuIQ35js pic.twitter.com/MHV4LtFdCs
— TikiAndTierney (@TikiAndTierney) September 29, 2021
Nets owner Joe Tsai also weighed in, saying he hopes "to see Kyrie play full and win a championship together."
Joe Tsai: “Whats our purpose this year? Its very very clear win a championship; and a championship team needs to have everybody pulling the same direction. So I hope to see Kyrie play fully and win a championship together with everybody else with all his teammates.” #nets #nba
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) September 30, 2021
Shaq joins growing chorus of people asking Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated
O'Neal isn't the only person who would prefer Irving get vaccinated. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also campaigned for Irving to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. de Blasio wasn't as harsh as O'Neal, telling Irving he should get vaccinated so the fans can see him play.
Irving has not confirmed his vaccination status, but was not present during Nets media day, a sign Irving has not been vaccinated. If he refuses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Irving would not be allowed to play home games with the Nets due to New York's COVID-19 mandates. That would be a significant blow to the Nets, who enter the season with championship aspirations.
In addition to missing games, Irving could miss out on a lot of money. The NBA will reportedly dock pay for players who miss games due to local COVID-19 mandates.
It's possible those factors eventually convince Irving to get vaccinated. If not, the Nets may have to take O'Neal's advice and get Irving's "ass up outta" New York.