Daytime sports debate television was made for situations like the one Kyrie Irving finds himself in currently, and there were fireworks inside the ESPN studio on Wednesday as Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams got into a heated debate over the latest report on Kyrie Irving’s position regarding vaccine mandates.
On Tuesday, the Nets issued a public ultimatum to Irving, barring him from team activities until he receives a COVID-19 vaccination to comply with the local mandate in New York City. A report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania shed light on Irving’s reasoning for remaining ineligible, and according to sources close to Irving, he intends to take a stand against vaccine mandates in solidarity with unvaccinated workers who are losing their jobs. The report states that Irving himself is not against receiving the vaccine, but that he wants to use his platform to make a point.
Stephen A. Smith called the situation “some of the stupidest nonsense” he’s ever seen, and ripped Irving for his reported plan to be a voice for the voiceless.
“This is some of the stupidest nonsense I’ve ever seen. Just flat-out stupid.
Let me get this straight…. So you don’t have a problem with taking the vaccine? Your position is that you’re going to sit up there and compromise the championship aspirations of an organization you signed on to represent – you coaxed Kevin Durant into signing on to represent, you played a role in coaxing James Harden into signing on to represent? You’re going to compromise all that because you want to give a voice to the voiceless? Really?
And how is that going to work out for you, Kyrie Irving? You’re going to disappear from the game of basketball, who the hell is going to be interested in what you have to say when you have proven that you can’t even be trusted enough to do your damn job? A job you volunteered for.
…. I am not calling Kyrie Irving stupid. Kyrie Irving, I happen to believe is an intelligent brother whose heart is in the right place. But now you’ve regressed to an alarming level of self-righteousness it not only makes you look hypocritical and untrustworthy, it makes you look what I know you are not, which is flat-out stupid.”
Smith and Jay Williams got into a heated argument over Smith’s take, as Williams defended Irving’s individual right to choose to sit out. Smith wasn’t swayed by Williams’ point, and went after the former Duke star, telling Williams that he sounds “full of it.”
Jay Williams: “I’ve had COVID twice, I get it. I just want to be careful when we start going down this road that we’re going to act like Kyrie Irving being vaccinated or not being vaccinated is going to change the minds of millions of people…”
Stephen A. Smith: “Who said that?”
Jay Williams: “I’m just telling you how it feels from people, Stephen A. When you start calling people ‘stupid,’ or you start saying that they’re selfish, these things start going all over the internet, that creates a different narrative and people start fighting back against that narrative. I’m just telling you how it is on the other side, Stephen A. I know you have your thoughts and how you see things…”
Stephen A. Smith: “What’s ‘the other side?’ What’s ‘the other side?’
Jay Williams: “I’m on the side of being vaccinated…”
Stephen A. Smith: “I didn’t say you weren’t! We’re talking about a basketball player – you’re the one that took it there, Jay. We’re talking about basketball player who signed on to play for the Brooklyn Nets that has left his team hanging.”
Jay Williams: “That’s his own personal decision. He’s choosing to do that, for him. And when you go through an unprecedented time in the history of this country, you have your own individual right to make your own decision about what you want to do for you and your family. I just respect that right, I’m not saying I agree with that right. I respect it.”
Stephen A. Smith: “All right then. You respect the right. I’m saying to you ‘no!’ I’m saying to you ‘no!’ If you’re signed on to do a job, OK, and that’s what comes with it….. Now I can get deeper and bring up the fact that the President of the virtual health care system in south Jersey was the one that personally took me to the ICU….”
Jay Williams: “I’m not disagreeing with that Stephen A. But you act like we have a 100 percent vaccination rate in this country…”
Stephen A. Smith: “Jay… Jay, Jay, you sound full of it, bro. I ain’t going to lie to you.”
This post originally appeared on Nets Wire.