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Tammany Hall redux? Nets' practice facility now cleared for (apparently unvaccinated) star Irving, since it's part of office building limited to tenants (really?)

The big drama involving unvaccinated (apparently) Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving took another twist yesterday, when The Athletic reported (and more from NetsDaily) that the Nets' practice facility in Sunset Park, was now open to him, since it was now considered private office space.

This makes it somewhat more likely that Irving can be integrated into the team and play, at least, in road games. And it surely results from lobbying by the team/ownership.

From The Athletic, Nets' Kyrie Irving can participate in practices in Brooklyn, per city official:

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been cleared to participate in home practices due to New York City determining that the team’s practice facility — the HSS Training Center — is a private office building, a City Hall official tells The Athletic.

Irving practiced with the team while it spent the first week of training camp in California, but was not with the team when it returned to Brooklyn on Tuesday. Irving previously attended media day virtually due to health and safety protocols.

In August, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order that required New York City-area professional athletes to show proof of at least one approved COVID-19 vaccine shot to practice or play in public buildings in the city.

The City Hall official said Barclays Center is considered a public building.

Notably, no name nor document was attached to this decision. Author Matt Sullivan was appropriately cynical.

Thinking it through

So we're not sure of the entire rationale, My initial reaction: Brooklyn Nets office spaces at the training center surely do qualify as offices--which are places where people can reasonably do their work wearing masks.

But the practice floor, with the players unmasked and thus more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, more closely resembles a gym.

And most gyms are subject to vax mandates, aren't they? From the NYC Department of Health's web site:

Vaccination Proof for Indoor Activities (Key to NYC)
People 12 and older are required to show identification and proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for:
  • Indoor dining
  • Includes restaurants, catering halls, hotel banquet rooms, bars, nightclubs, cafeterias, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, grocery stores with indoor dining and other indoor dining spaces
  • Indoor fitness
  • Includes gyms, fitness centers, fitness classes, pools, dance studios and other indoor fitness studios, such as yoga or Pilates
  • Indoor entertainment and certain meeting spaces
  • Includes movie theaters, music and concert venues, museums, aquariums and zoos, professional sports arenas, indoor stadiums, convention centers, exhibition halls, hotel meeting and event spaces, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, pool and billiard halls, recreational game centers, adult entertainment and indoor play areas

Drilling down: first loophole

That said, the relevant 8/16/21 Emergency Executive Order, Key to NYC: Requiring COVID-19 Vaccination for Indoor Entertainment, Recreation, Dining and Fitness Settings, did seem to offer a couple of loopholes.

It states a rationale for vaccinations:

WHEREAS, indoor entertainment, recreation, dining and fitness settings generally involve groups of unassociated people interacting for a substantial period of time and requiring vaccination for all individuals in these areas, including workers, will protect the public health, promote public safety, and save the lives of not just those vaccinated individuals but the public at large;
However, it left an odd loophole for a "nonresident performing artist," a "nonresident professional athlete/sports team" and a "nonresident individual accompanying a performing artist or professional athlete/sports team."

This double standard has prompted a proposed bill removing the loophole, The City reported 10/6/21, in Rogan Show Spurs Bill for Uniform Vaccination Rules for Home and Away Teams.

Drilling down: second loophole

However, the Emergency Executive Order also offers some exemptions:

c. "Covered premises" means any location, except a location in a residential or office building the use of which is limited to residents, owners, or tenants of that building, that is used for the following purposes: 
(i) Indoor Entertainment and Recreational Settings, including indoor portions of the following locations, regardless of the activity at such locations: movie theaters, music or concert venues, adult entertainment, casinos, botanical gardens, commercial event and party venues, museums and galleries, aquariums, zoos, professional sports arenas and indoor stadiums, convention centers and exhibition halls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, indoor play areas, pool and billiard halls, and other recreational game centers;

...(iii) Indoor Gyms and Fitness Settings, including indoor portions of standalone and hotel gyms and fitness centers, gyms and fitness centers in higher education institutions, yoga/Pilates/barre/dance studios, boxing/kickboxing gyms, fitness boot camps, indoor pools, CrossFit or other plyometric boxes, and other facilities used for conducting group fitness classes.
So Indoor Entertainment and Recreational Settings and Indoor Gyms and Fitness Settings are covered, except if they're in an office building limited to residents, owners, and tenants.

So the HSS Training Center is apparently seen as limited to residents, owners, and tenants. On one level, that may seem to make sense--the Nets can set a policy for their team and associated staff. On another level, it exposes players and staff--who can't necessarily bow out--to increased risks.

What about the press and other visitors? To be consistent, the Nets should be barring short-term visitors, right? Well, Sullivan has some thoughts, too.



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