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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — There is fierce backlash after New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the vaccine mandate for professional athletes and performers but not city workers.

The policy change means unvaccinated players for the Mets and Yankees, as well as Nets star Kyrie Irving can now compete in the city.

But unions representing other workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, are accusing the mayor of a double standard. And in some cases they are threatening legal action.

Adams says he made the decision to help the economy.

“By putting our home teams on equal playing field, we increase their chances of winning and then has a real impact on our city. This is just not fans in the stands but it is people in the stores.”

The mayor is now under fire from virtually every major municipal union.

Unions representing teachers, police, correction officers, EMTs and paramedics want the exemptions extended to city workers.

They’re also calling for fired workers to be called back or compensated for their lost wage.

95% of those workers have received at least one vaccine dose.

About 1400 employees have been fired for not getting it.

The United Federation of Teachers released a statement saying in part,

“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 exemptions could be applied to city workers.”

The Patrolmen’s Benevolence Association, the city’s largest police union — which has sued the city over the mandate — was irate.

“We have been suing the city for months over its arbitrary and capricious vaccine mandate – this is exactly what we are talking about,” PBA President Pat Lynch said. “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.”

Adams’ move comes as the NBA and NHL playoff races heat up, and as Major League Baseball prepares for Opening Day.

In fact, Adams officially announced the change for athletes and performers at Citi Field, where the Mets play.

The exemption, announced Thursday morning, was effective immediately.

The Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of unions that together represent about 350,000 city workers, said the city should offer a way for fired 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,” chair Harry Nespolli said. “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.”

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she is worried about the “increasingly ambiguous messages” from the mayor.

“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,” she said. “This is a step away from following sensible public health-driven policies that prioritize equity.”

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Adams predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, made vaccination mandatory as a workplace safety rule last year, before leaving office.

Jay Varma, a health advisor to de Blasio, said in a tweet that the mandate had legal standing because it applied to everyone.

“#VaccinesWork…unless you’re rich and powerful, in which case, #LobbyingWorks,” Varma wrote. “The #KyrieCarveOut opens City up to entire scheme being voided by courts as “‘arbitrary and capricious.'”

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Irving, a vaccine holdout, had been among the most high-profile people impacted. He was able to re-join the team in January but only when they played out-of-town games.

This month, concerns had been raised that the rule would also impact Major League Baseball.

Yankees star Aaron Judge refused to directly answer a question about his vaccine status earlier this month, leading to speculation that another New York team could be hobbled by a player’s refusal to get inoculated.

The Yankees, who open their season at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 7, thanked Mayor Adams for his “courageous decision.” Yankees President Randy Levine said he was glad the mayor and health officials took the time they needed to get to this decision.
Adams has been rolling back vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions, including on Tuesday when he said masks could become optional for children under 5 starting April 4.

Mask mandates for older children have already been removed, as well as rules requiring people to show proof of vaccination to dine in a restaurant, work out at a gym, attend a show, or go to an indoor sporting event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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