To be or not be vaccinated? The debate grows louder as both the NHL and NBA training camp’s approach. While at least 90 per cent of players, larger than the nations vaccination rate, are fully vaccinated, some players are still very hesitant.
The decision of some players not to get vaccinated is testing the league’s vaccination policy—something that is creating major rifts in the league ahead of the new season.
NBA staff are upset that unvaccinated players are not being mandated to get the jab as most of the team staff and referees were. Additionally, the staff feel unvaccinated staff pose a health risk amid the pandemic.
The NBA did seek to mandate all players to get vaccinated in a gentle shove, but that caused a lot of backlash from the National Basketball Players Association. “A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with Players Association. The NBA has made these proposals, but the player’s union has rejected any vaccination requirement,” said the NBA spokesperson Mike Bass in an email to the Hill.
NBA players will therefore not be required to get vaccinated. Instead, they will be subjected to a stricter set of health and safety protocols compared to vaccinated players, including daily testing. According to New York and San Francisco vaccine requirements, unvaccinated teams in those cities will not be allowed to play this season.
Therefore, unvaccinated players from Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will not be allowed to play in home games unless they provide an approved medical or religious exemption. An additional consequence to unvaccinated is that they will likely lose pay from the missed game.
“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” Bass said.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, the Vice President of the players’ union and other top union representatives are not vaccinated—something that Irving refused to comment on Monday during a zoom meeting with reporters. “Please respect my privacy,” he said.
Should Irving miss a single game, he stands to lose $300K per game—cumulatively, that could cost him millions as he stands to miss at least 41 games this season.
He isn’t alone on his decision not to get vaccinated though; Canadian Andrew Wiggins might not play any home games this season as San Francisco has passed a vaccine mandate for all pro-athletes. A decision to which he said, “I’m going to keep fighting for what I believe is right”. Wiggins did apply for a religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine, but the NBA denied it.
Another NBA star, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, revealed that he, too, was not vaccinated. The star said he was apprehensive of the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. “I would like an explanation to people with vaccine: Why are they still getting COVID if that’s something that we are supposed to highly be protected from?” Beal said in a press conference on Monday.
Bradley Beal, unlike Irving and Wiggins, plays in Brooklyn, a city that does not have the pro-athlete vaccine mandate and might not miss a game. Unlike the two, he is not completely opposed to the vaccine saying, “I’ll definitely think about it, for sure. With the guidelines that the league makes and everything that the protocols are doing, they king make it difficult on us to where they king of force us in a way to want to get it.”
He added, “But at the end of the day, I’ll talk to my family, and we’ll make a group decision that we feel is best.”
The tug of war between unvaccinated players and the league has sparked much conversation, with Ted Cruz voicing his support for the unvaccinated NBA players. “I stand with Kyrie Irving. I stand with Andrew Wiggins. I stand with Jonathan Isaac,” Cruz tweeted on Wednesday.
On the extreme end, Abdul-Jabbar, NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, told Rolling Stone, “The NBA should insist that all players and staff be vaccinated or remove them from the team. There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and their fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research.”
As the season approaches, it will be interesting to see whether the unvaccinated players will bow to the pressure and get vaccinated or remain steadfast in their decision. Will their actions sabotage the 2021-2022 season?