A rally for NBA player Kyrie Irving that also served as a protest against the vaccine mandate preventing him from playing this season drew comparisons to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots after turning violent in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. Photos and video showed that protesters tried to breach the building where the Brooklyn Nets play their home games but were unsuccessful in their attempts to break past human barriers made up of Barclays Center staff.
Hundreds of people marched to the team’s home stadium ahead of a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets, demanding that Irving — who has refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the professional basketball league requiring full vaccinations of all its players and staff — be allowed to play.
The protest was organized in part by Black Lives Matter activist Hawk Newsome, who has been among the most vocal opponents of vaccine mandates in New York City. He has argued that they are adversely affecting Black people.
As the anti-vax rally was going viral on social media on Sunday, cultural commentator Jemele Hill retweeted video footage of protesters attempting to break into the Barclays Center, the home of the Nets, in a violent fashion while appearing to be raging out of control. Hill pointed out the similarities between that moment and the insurrectionists who illegally broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to prevent the certification of the election of Joe Biden.
Her tweet alluded to the politicization of the NBA’s vaccine mandate and how it’s attracted the most unlikely of supporters, like right-wing conservative politicos who are consistently on the wrong side of history. HIll summed it all up neatly in three words: “January 6th energy.”
While the anti-vax protesters and their rally in Brooklyn don’t have presidential implications, they do, still, fuel and contribute to political views about the COVID-19 vaccine, which the government has encouraged for the public in an effort to get the pandemic under control.
“Let Kyrie play!” the protesters — many of whom were holding American flags and may or may not actually care about the game of basketball — chanted.
There were no immediate reports of any arrests, similar to what happened at the Capitol riots on Jan. 6. But that all could change, like with the Capitol rioters, if law enforcement officials decide to pore over any and every piece of surveillance footage to help them identify anyone who may have broken the law on Sunday.
Irving did not immediately react to the protest.
However, he recently broke his silence and explained his anti-vaccine stance.
“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,” Irving said before adding: “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.”