New York City’s mayor exempted athletes, performers, and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets from Thursday’s city vaccine mandate. However, the rule remains in effect for public and private workers who refuse to be vaccinated and could lose their jobs.

Many members of public employees unions were fired after refusing to take the shots. They criticized Mayor Eric Adams for allegedly lifting the rule for only wealthy and well-known athletes. Adams dismissed the criticism by stating that exemptions for performers and athletes were crucial to the city’s economic recovery.

The exemption takes effect immediately. Irving will be one of the beneficiaries. He is a vaccine skeptic who was allowed to return to the Nets in January but only when they played outside of town games. With nine games remaining in their regular season, the Nets will need him to help them push for the playoffs.

Adams’ predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio made mandatory vaccinations as a workplace safety rule before he left office. However, he created a loophole that exempts performers and players who aren’t based in New York City. Adams stated that he thought it was unfair.

Adams said that players attract people to the stadium during an announcement at Citi Field where the Mets play. He was accompanied by Sandy Alderson, Mets president, and Randy Levine from the Yankees. Both men were highly applauding the decision.

He stated, “By placing our home teams on an equal playing field, we increase our chances of winning and that has real impact on our community.”

The public employees unions didn’t buy that.

Harry Nespoli, President of the Municipal Labor Committee, a group that includes unions representing around 350,000 city workers, stated, “There cannot be one system to serve the elite and another for essential workers in our city.”

That argument was repeated by the city’s largest police union, which said its officers “don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.”

Pat Lynch, union president, stated that if the mandate isn’t necessary for celebrities then it’s not necessary to protect our city during a crime crisis.

Last month, more than 1,400 people were fired by the city for not complying with the vaccine mandate. Adams stated Thursday that he did not have plans to rehire these workers at the moment.

Adrienne Adams, City Council Speaker, said that the exemption sent the wrong message about celebrities and higher-paid workers being considered more important than our dedicated civil servants. She is not related to the mayor.

Jay Varma, de Blasio’s health advisor, stated in a tweet, that the mandate of the former mayor had legal standing since it was applicable to all.

Varma stated that #VaccinesWork… unless one is wealthy and powerful in which case #LobbyingWorks. He said: “The #KyrieCarveOut open City up to whole scheme being voided as “arbitrary and capricious” by the courts.

Adams stated that he wouldn’t have made the change had city lawyers not advised him otherwise.

The NBA and players union released a joint statement applauding Adams’ decision.

The statement stated that “we applaud the mayor to listen to the concerns of New York’s teams, players, fans, and communities, and to level the playing field for home and their rivals.”

There were concerns that De Blasio’s vaccination rule could also have an impact on Major League Baseball.

Levine and Alderson declined to disclose the number of unvaccinated players. Alderson stated Thursday that it was “a small minority”, while Levine claimed “very few”.

Aaron Judge , Yankees’ star, refused to answer a question about the status of his vaccine earlier in the month. This led to speculation that another New York baseball team might be affected by this player refusing to get inoculated.

Judge answered Wednesday’s question about reports that athletes were about to get the vaccine mandate lifted. He said that he was happy Kyrie could play some home games.

The Yankees will open their season against the Boston Red Sox at home on April 7.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen donated $1.5 million to a political committee that supported Adams during his 2021 campaign. Adams is a Mets supporter.

Adams has been reversing other coronavirus restrictions. On Tuesday, Adams said masks could be made optional starting April 4.

Mask mandates for older kids have been eliminated. Rules requiring proof of vaccination are no longer required to eat at a restaurant, exercise at a gym, go to a concert, or participate in indoor sports events.