One of the biggest questions heading into the 2021-22 NBA season was if the league would require players to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and we got our answer. The league will not require vaccinations for players, league spokesperson Mike Bass told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The National Basketball Players Association has refused to budge from its stance against mandatory shots for players.
“A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with the Players Association,” Bass said. “The NBA has made these proposals but the players’ union has rejected any vaccination requirement.”
While players won’t be required to get vaccinated, a vast majority already have been. Around 90 percent of the league’s players are vaccinated, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Unvaccinated players will be subject to a much stricter set of health and safety protocols compared to their vaccinated peers, including daily testing, which won’t be required of fully vaccinated players.
Earlier this month, the league told teams that new local COVID-19 requirements in New York and San Francisco regarding vaccine requirements will be enforced for members of the teams in those cities — Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks — including players, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption, per ESPN.
Players who are unvaccinated in those cities won’t be allowed to play in home games, per the vaccine mandates, and they will also risk pay for every game they sit out.
“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” Bass said.
For Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who reportedly isn’t vaccinated, that would cost him $300K a game, per longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein. The same goes for Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins who isn’t vaccinated.
Unlike the players, NBA referees are required to be fully vaccinated for the upcoming season. Regarding referees, the league released the following statement:
The NBA announced today that it has reached an agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association requiring vaccinations for all referees working NBA games during the 2021-22 season.
The agreement specifies that all referees must be fully vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption. The referees have also agreed to take any recommended boosters. Any referee who does not get vaccinated and is not exempt will be ineligible to work games.
In addition to referees, the league is requiring all team and arena personnel who regularly interact with players and referees to be vaccinated, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. That includes coaches, front-office members, medical and equipment staff, player development, team and arena security, social media team members, PR employees and those who work at the scorer’s table.
It also includes any personnel who will work near the court, like broadcasters and photographers. Back-of-house team and arena operations will also be required to be vaccinated. The deadline for team personnel to be fully vaccinated is Oct. 1, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps.
With a majority of the players and virtually all team and arena personnel vaccinated, the league is clearly hoping that it won’t have to postpone nearly as many games as it did a season ago.