NBA legend Charles Barkley took another shot at anti-vaccine athletes on Tuesday, in particular Kyrie Irving, who has been benched by the Brooklyn Nets for refusing to get inoculated against COVID-19.
Barkley, during the TNT halftime show, said it “still bugs me” that Irving is receiving half of his $35 million salary as he sits out the season because of his stance.
The Nets didn’t want a part-time player in the mix and nixed Irving because pro athletes in New York have to be fully vaccinated to play or practice in public venues.
Barkley also rejected misguided comparisons of Irving to late boxer Muhammad Ali, who was banned from boxing for three years after refusing the draft into the Vietnam War.
“People say he’s like Ali,” said Barkley. “Don’t compare anybody to Ali.”
Irving is “still gonna make $17 million sitting at home,” Barkley noted.
Barkley also took issue with fellow former NBA player Kenny Smith’s empathy for Irving, who has said he’s refusing the vaccine because it’s “what’s best for me.”
“First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people,” Barkley said. “I got vaccinated. I can’t wait to get the booster. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself. Like [NBA Commissioner] Adam [Silver] said, you get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second.”
“I think everybody should get vaccinated,” Barkley added, noting he was “proud of the Nets for putting their foot down and for saying, ‘No, we’re not going to deal with this half on, half off’” and allow Irving just to play on the road.