by Stephon Johnson | March 31, 2022
New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ cleaning of the de Blasio administration’s mandates continues. This week? Athletes and entertainers.
The mayor lifted the ban on both groups after a long standoff with people like Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving who refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Irving said on Monday that his refusal to take the vaccine was about his “freedom.”
“Freedom, I don’t think that’s a word that gets defined enough in our society, about the freedom to make choices with your life without someone telling you what the f–k to do and whether that carries over to nuances of our society that politicians control, the government controls, or things people who are in power—the powers that may be,” said Irving on Monday to reporters according to NetsDaily.com (a part of SB Nation). “I’m standing for freedom, so that’s in all facets of my life. There’s nobody that’s enslaving me.”
The news came as a shock to several unions.
Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association, said she heard about the announcement from someone else and not from the mayor.
“I know I’m not the only union president who was caught by surprise here. Let’s not do it this way again,” said Shindle on Twitter. “I can easily organize a meeting between those leaders and you/your staff when major changes are in the pipeline. I’m pretty easy to find …so HMU [hit me up].”
While the rules have changed, employers on Broadway have declared to carry on as usual and enforce the already implemented policies: vaccinated except for those too young to get it, certain exemptions (like religious) from vaccinations if accepted. Those still unvaccinated are required to wear masks.
Mandates were agreed upon by the union and by The Broadway League, which leads the Broadway theater industry.
When speaking to reporters Adams threw the blame on the Bill de Blasio administration, stating that these always existed and now they’re correcting what had been deemed ‘unfair.’
“It stated, ‘If you come to our city, we’re going to treat you different than what we would treat New Yorkers,’” said Adams to supporters. “We are correcting that and we didn’t do it automatically. We waited until we were comfortable enough, based on the medical team, that we would continue to move forward with a very strategic plan of recovering our economy and looking at some of the unfair things that we saw.”
One reporter noted that the city fired more than a thousand municipal workers in February and pointed out a possible double standard: Adams’ response?
“We’re not talking about a handful of athletes,” Adams said. “I think this is the narrative that is unfortunate on what we are putting out there. I know struggling singers; I know struggling performers. We look at one or two athletes and we are not realizing the entire industry. We are part of a financial ecosystem that includes our nightlife, performers, artists, any entertainer.
“We created an unfair disadvantage to New York-based performers,” continued Adams. “I’m correcting that unfair disadvantage and I’m doing it at the appropriate time, when our numbers are low. This is the right thing to do.”
But others don’t see it that way.
“It is clear that these actions are motivated now by the upcoming MLB season and the NBA Playoffs,” said Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507 in a statement to the AmNews. “We have players like Kyrie Irving making more than $33 million a year or $425,000 for each and every game -VS- the FDNY’s mostly female and minority EMT workforce, surviving on poverty wages.” Barzilay then echoed the cries of the previous mayor.
“Most ironic is that members of FDNY EMS were hailed as New York’s heroes of the pandemic,” said Barzilay. “It proves, again, that fame is certainly fleeting. How quickly our city leaders have forgotten.
“It is the modern-day, Tale of Two Cities.”
Not to be outdone was Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch. He said that the city chose big names over the little man. “We have been suing the city for months over its arbitrary and capricious vaccine mandate—this is exactly what we are talking about. If the mandate isn’t necessary for famous people, then it’s not necessary for the cops who are protecting our city in the middle of a crime crisis,” said Lynch in a statement to the AmNews. “While celebrities were in lockdown, New York City police officers were on the street throughout the pandemic, working without adequate PPE and in many cases contracting and recovering from Covid themselves. They don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens now.”
Elected officials were on the side of firefighters and police.
Staten Island Council Member Joe Borelli was also upset with Adams’ decision.
“We are firing our own employees but allowing exemptions for the fancy ones,” he said on Twitter. “What is the rationale for exempting basketball players from the city’s private sector vaccine mandate but not the ushers or janitors in the arena? There must be a compelling public interest for subverting the equal application of our laws.”