Mayor Eric Adams exempted the city’s athletes and performers from the Big Apple’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Thursday following weeks of pressure after it kept Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing in home games — and was expected to block some baseball players from taking the field next month.
Speaking at Citi Field and joined by executives of both the Mets and Yankees, Adams said Thursday that he has signed the order. The exemption was effective immediately.
“Being healthy is not just about being physically healthy, but being economically healthy,” he said.
Adams also prefaced his announcement by saying: “I’m going to make some tough choices. People are not going to agree with some of them. I must move this city forward.
“Generals lead from the front. I was not elected to be fearful, but to be fearless.”
Among those who blasted Adams’s decision was the city’s next-highest elected official, fellow Democrat and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams of Queens, who voiced “serious concerns” over what she called “a step away from following sensible, public health-driven policies that prioritize equity.”
“I’m worried about the increasingly ambiguous messages that are being sent to New Yorkers about public health during this continuing pandemic,” the council speaker said.
“This exemption sends the wrong message that higher-paid workers and celebrities are being valued as more important than our devoted civil servants, which I reject.”
In addition to exempting professional athletes and performing artists, Adams’ executive order covers the arenas, stadiums, concert halls and theaters where they ply their trades — down to the smallest Greenwich Village jazz club or Brooklyn music bar.
But Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, said, “Broadway theatres anticipate no change in our protocols based on this announcement.”
“We continue to evaluate our COVID safety protocols for audiences, cast and crew, in concert with our unions and medical experts,” St. Martin added.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Opera also said it wasn’t changing its policy for attendees, artists, orchestra and chorus members, and staffers, all of whom “must show proof of vaccination upon arrival at the Met.”
The city’s sweeping vaccine mandates — which led to the firings of more than 1,400 city employees — will still apply to both municipal and private-sector workers.
Adams also said a provision in former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s private-sector mandate that exempted out-of-town athletes and performers was unfair to the Big Apple and its sports teams.
“This is about putting New York City-based based performers on a level playing field,” he said. “Hometown players had an unfair disadvantage.”
Earlier Thursday, the leaders of several municipal unions blasted Adams for adopting a double standard that they said favored famous athletes and other celebrities.
“There can’t be one system for the elite and another for the essential workers of our city,” said Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and chair of the umbrella Municipal Labor Committee.
Nespoli also invoked the 1,400-plus city employees who were fired for refusing to get jabbed, saying: “There should be a re-entry program for workers to get their jobs back.”
“When New York City shut down, many workers were mandated to come in every day without vaccines to keep the city running,” he said.
“These workers often got sick, and when they got better, came right back to work.”
The executive director of District Council 37, which represents 150,000 workers and is the city’s largest municipal union, said, “We demand that those who lost their job over the mandate be reinstated.”
“These are the same essential workers who kept the City going during the height of the pandemic,” Henry Garrido said.
“They deserve the respect and dignity of having their jobs back. They deserve to be treated equally to their private-sector counterparts.”
The head of the NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Union, Paul DiGiacomo, said Adams’ move “doesn’t make sense.”
“The objective, scientific findings do not support giving athletes one option and New York City detectives another option,” he said.
“This vaccine mandate is being done in the middle of a crime wave. We are losing experienced detectives in the homicide squad, precinct squads. The only losers are the people of New York.”
Patrick Lynch, president of the 24,000-member Police Benevolent Association, said, “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,” he said in a prepared statement.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers, which represents the city’s public school educators, said, “Vaccinations are a critical tool against the spread of COVID, and the city should not create exceptions to its vaccination requirements without compelling reasons.”
“If the rules are going to be suspended, particularly for people with influence, then the UFT and other city unions are ready to discuss how exceptions could be applied to city workers,” the spokesperson added.
Last week, the US Supreme Court said it would consider an appeal filed by 15 teachers workers who claim their rights were violated when the Department of Education refused to grant them exemptions based on their religious beliefs.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa also announced a preemptive news conference outside the entrance to Citi Field, 45 minutes before Adams was scheduled to speak there.
“In 2020, we saw the very best of New York in our first responders, essential workers and teachers. In response, they’ve now been told by two governors and two mayors to take the shot or lose their job,” Giuliani said in a statement.
“It’s time to right those wrongs by ending all mandates, reinstating these heroes, and giving them back pay. The freedom to make personal health decisions shouldn’t only be the right of athletes and performers.”