Retired boxer Floyd Mayweather is slamming vaccine mandates across the United States in his defense of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who has been sidelined indefinitely over his refusal to get the COVID-19 injection.
'I respect you for having some integrity and being your own man,' Mayweather said in a social media video directed at Irving.
'I hope your actions encourage many others to stand up and say enough is enough.'
Irving stands to lose around half his $35 million salary this season because of New York's vaccine mandate, which prevents him from playing home games at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
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Retired boxer Floyd Mayweather (left) is slamming vaccine mandates across the United States in his defense of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (right, who has been sidelined indefinitely over his refusal to get the COVID-19 injection. Irving stands to lose around half his $35 million salary this season because of New York's vaccine mandate, which prevents him from playing home games at Brooklyn's Barclays Center
Irving would have been permitted to play road games and even practice in Brooklyn, because the team's training center is considered a private workplace and not a public arena, but the team decided to sideline him indefinitely until he's vaccinated or a permanent solution can be reached.
It is unclear if Mayweather, the undefeated former champion, is vaccinated, himself. DailyMail.com's emails and voice messages to his promotion company were not immediately returned.
The extent of his relationship with Irving is unclear, but Mayweather claims to have spent time with the NBA All-Star ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics and the two have been seen hugging courtside before a Cavaliers-Knicks game in 2015.
'Kyrie, what's up?' Mayweather's social media video began. 'I know you're going through a lot. We had a chance to hang out in 2016 when you represented America, when you represented the red, white and blue.
'You only want to be treated fair,' the 44-year-old Mayweather continued. 'I was gonna post something on one of my social media pages, but I decided to do it the old-school way and read it out to you because you're a great person, great father, great athlete. And you believe what you believe.
'America is the land of the free: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, supposedly, freedom to choose. Never be controlled by money. I respect you for having some integrity and being your own man.
'A free mind makes his own choices, and a slave mind follows the crowd. Stand for something or fall for anything. One man can lead a revolution to stand up and fight for what's right. One choice, one word, one action, can change the world. It's crazy how people hate you for being a leader. I hope your actions encourage many others to stand up and say enough is enough.
'Respect to you, Kyrie, and power to the people.'
Angry anti-vaccine demonstrators gathered outside the Barclays Center before the Brooklyn Nets' home opener Sunday
Some demonstrators were held back by security as they tried to charge inside the building
Irving has recently become a cause célèbre for those who oppose vaccine mandates, such as Mayweather.
The 29-year-old Irving has received support from several conservative figures including Donald Trump Jr. and senator Ted Cruz (Republican - Texas).
And last week, at the Nets' home opener, a group of protestors rushed the Barclays Center entrance while demanding that Kyrie be allowed to play.
Irving has also received criticism for his stance from many around the game, including ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who praised the Nets for their decision to hold the point guard out of road games and practices.
In his own video earlier this month, Irving said he does not regret his decision.
'So what? It's not about the money,' Irving said. 'It's not always about the money. It's about choosing what's best for you. You think I really want to lose money?'
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Irving has 'sacrificed more than [Colin] Kaepernick ever did
Senator Ted Cruz (Texas, Republican) suggested that the Rockets could trade for Kyrie Irving
Irving said he loved basketball and shot down any suggestion that he could retire over the issue.
'I am doing what's best for me,' he said Wednesday. 'I know the consequences here and if it means that I'm judged and demonized for that, that's just what it is. That's the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate.'
He went on to say that he supported people who were and weren't vaccinated and expressed appreciation for doctors. Irving didn't give any indication that he was against being vaccinated, just that he was deciding not to.
'Once again, I'm going to repeat this. This is not about the Nets, this is not about the organization, it's not about the NBA, it's not politics,' Irving said. 'It's not any one thing.
'It's just about the freedom of what I want to do.'
Irving hasn't spoken to reporters since the Nets' media day on September 27, when he appeared via Zoom and asked for privacy when questioned about his vaccination status.
Los Angeles and San Francisco are the only other NBA cities with vaccine mandates. However, Canada does have rigid travel restrictions, so unvaccinated players facing the Raptors in Toronto will be quarantined in their rooms when they're not playing or practicing.