Jay Williams’ public defense of Kyrie Irving began with Stephen A. Smith calling him “full of it” and only got worse from there.
The ESPN analyst said on Instagram that following his appearance on “First Take” this week — along with his using his Twitter account to show support for the unvaccinated Nets star — internet trolls have wished death upon him.
He has been told to “go hit a pole, go die again,” Williams said, a reference to the motorcycle accident in 2003 that nearly killed him and effectively ended his basketball career.
Williams, who said he himself is vaccinated against COVID-19, has defended Irving’s stance as a personal decision; a decision that has taken him away from the Nets, who will not allow him to be a part-time player. Under New York City guidelines, he cannot play home games at Barclays Center unless he is vaccinated.
Appearing on ESPN on Wednesday, Williams served as the Irving defender in a debate with Smith, who called Irving’s stance “some of the stupidest nonsense I’ve ever seen.” Smith has been heavily pro-vaccine on the network.
Williams’ point boiled down to Irving having the right to do with his body what he pleases — a point that is undercut by the fact that what Irving does with his body during the coronavirus pandemic affects the people around him as well.
After Irving, who cited the number of people who are losing jobs because of the vaccine mandates, gave his reasoning on Instagram, Williams wrote, “I support you @KyrieIrving,” with some clapping-hands emoji.
Williams is now feeling the backlash, too.
“Thank God I went through that [near-death] experience, cause I don’t need other people to justify how I think about myself,” Williams said.