Protesters scaled barricades and pushed toward the doors of the Brooklyn Nets' home arena on Sunday in support of NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving, who cannot join the team as he has chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Videos that surfaced online showed protesters outside the arena ahead of the Nets' first home game of the 2021-22 NBA season chanting "Let Kyrie play" while some held "Stand with Kyrie" signs.
Security had to lock down the Barclays Center at one point, which prevented some fans from entering, but the game against the Charlotte Hornets began on time at 4:00 p.m. ET (2000 GMT).
"Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena," a spokesperson for the arena said in a statement provided to Reuters.
"Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule."
The NBA does not require players to be vaccinated but Irving is not eligible to play in home games because of coronavirus regulations in New York.
The Nets announced ahead of the current season that Irving, a seven-times All-Star who joined Brooklyn in 2019 after stints with Cleveland and Boston, would not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.
"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose," the Nets said at the time.
"Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Christian Radnedge)