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Mayor Adams says professional athletes, performers now exempt from vaccine mandate

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Mayor Adams facing some criticism for lifting COVID vaccine mandate for athletes, performers 01:58

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday made a decision to lift the ban preventing unvaccinated New York athletes and performers from playing and working here.

It came after months of pressure from sports teams and entertainment venues, and it means Nets fans can soon see Kyrie Irving play home games and that a full roster of players can take the field when the Mets and Yankees open their seasons

But, as CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, not everyone is thrilled.

Adams said he was righting a wrong, leveling the playing field that allowed unvaccinated athletes from out of town to play in New York arenas while those on New York teams couldn't. But there is intense pushback. Municipal unions, even the City Council speaker, are crying foul, saying rich athletes shouldn't get a pass when more than 1,400 city workers were fired for not getting the shot and thousands more could soon join them.

Mayor Adams discusses COVID vaccine mandate exemptions for performers and pro athletes 27:27

"I'm the mayor of the city and I'm going to make some tough choices," Adams said.

The mayor defended his decision to suddenly reverse course and allow unvaccinated athletes to play ball and unvaccinated performers to get back on stage.

"Tough choice, difficult choice. There are those who say yea and those who say nay, but that's what I was elected to do," Adams said.

The yea-sayers included Mets president Sandy Alderson and Yankees president Randy Levine, who were on hand for the press conference at Citi Field. They naysayers include most of the major municipal unions representing teachers and sanitations workers, and the police unions.

Sources told Kramer that the NYPD has dismissed nine cops and 34 civilians for not getting the vaccine and that thousands more could be dismissed in the coming days because they have been denied exemptions and are not hopeful their appeals will be granted.

"There will be an uptick in crime. There will be less arrest, less prosecutions, and less convictions, putting the people of the city in more danger," said Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

"I'd like to ask the mayor to please reconsider the vaccine mandate, to not force the hand of so many dedicated men and women on this job to leave at a time when the city could really use us," NYPD Det. Christopher Florio said.

WATCH: Legal expert weighs in on NYC's vaccine mandate rollback for athletes, performers

Legal expert weighs in on NYC's vaccine mandate rollback for athletes, performers 04:01

Another naysayer is Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

"I have serious concerns about the process, rationale and inequity in today's decision to exempt professional athletes and performers from the city's private employee vaccine requirement when over 1,400 city government workers, many of whom served bravely on the front lines during this pandemic, were fired from their jobs for not getting vaccinated," the speaker said in a statement.

Kramer asked the mayor about the fired workers.

"I wonder if given the fact that you've lifted this mandate for baseball players if you would consider rehiring those 1,400 city workers who lost their jobs, because they didn't want to get the vaccine?" Kramer asked.

"Not at this time. I want to take my hat off to those countless number of New Yorkers, municipal employees that understood what we were going through as a city. They stood up and did the right thing," Adams said.

The mayor said the "right thing" was to get vaccinated, whether they wanted to or not.

"Over 340,000 New York City employees stated we wanted to be heroes for our city. I say to them we cannot thank them enough," Adams said, before staying silent as he was reminded of the 1,400 that were fired.

There was mixed reaction from people walking down Broadway on Thursday.

"I don't agree with the decision to lift it at all," one person told CBS2's Cory James.

"I think that that's probably a policy for the city or the state to decide," another person said.

Actress and Actors' Equity Association President Kate Shindle took to social media to speak out, tweeting at the mayor, "Would have been great to talk about this before it was announced. As you've probably noticed, actors work in close contact, overwhelmingly unmasked."

The mayor insisted that what he is doing is safe, health-wise, and important economically. Nightlife and spectator sports contributed to $35 billion to the economy before COVID hit.


Correction officers union decries 'disparate treatment'

"COBA continues its litigation against the City of New York over its inconsistent and selective vaccine mandate that has had a negative impact on our essential workforce. Given the continued staffing shortage we are experiencing, we need all healthy hands on deck. Terminating our members based on a policy that no longer exists for most New Yorkers is both disparate treatment and counter productive to our efforts to boost staffing levels at the city's jails. We strongly urge the city to reconsider the importance of having one consistent standard, which does not hurt the hometown heroes who serve our city every single day," said COBA President Benny Boscio. 

By Jesse Zanger

NBA says it supports the decision, "old rules... no longer made sense."

In a statement the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said in part "We applaud the mayor for listening to the concenrs of our New York teams, players, fans, and for leveling the playing field for home teams and their opponents." 

By Jesse Zanger

The Broadway League responds

While the rules may be changing for pro athletes and entertainers, the show will continue to go on as is on the Great White Way. 

"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," said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League.

By Jesse Zanger

United Federation of Teachers reacts

The United Federation of Teachers is sounding off on Adams' announcement. 

"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," said a UFT spokesperson. 

By CBS New York Team

Adams: NYC performers, athletes now exempt from vaccine mandate

Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday that New York City, or "hometown," performers and athletes are now exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

By CBS New York Team

How to watch


CBS News New York will stream the mayor's announcement live at 11:30 a.m.

You can watch on or the CBS New York app.

Also on the CBS News app on  Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Playstation 4, Pluto TV and Xbox One. 

By CBS New York Team

Municipal unions respond

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch released a statement ahead of the mayor's announcement, reading: 

"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. 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."  

Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association President Harry Nespoli also shared the following: 

"When New York City shut down, many workers were mandated to come in every day without vaccines to keep the city running. These workers often got sick, and when they got better, came right back to work. There should be a reentry program for workers to get their jobs back. There can't be one system for the elite and another for the essential workers of our city. We stand ready to work out the details with the Mayor, as we have been throughout this process."  

By CBS New York Team

What to expect

Mayor Adams expected to lift vaccine mandate for athletes, performers 02:52

This is a major shift from what the mayor has been promising since he took office in January -- that he would not drop any workplace vaccine mandates. 

Sources say he will exempt performers and athletes, including Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving.

The mayor has flip-flopped on the vaccine rules made by the de Blasio administration, because of a loophole that allowed visiting players and performers to go on, even if they are unvaccinated. 

CBS2 has learned the new rule will take effect immediately, meaning all unvaccinated athletes in New York City may be allowed back in the game, including Irving in the next home game Sunday. 

All this comes as Major League Baseball is getting ready to start its season.  

The new rule leaves behind city employees, like teachers and first responders, who still need the vaccine to work. Many protested the vaccine mandate, and nearly 1,500 were fired.

By John Dias
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