When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the sports world came to a grinding halt like so many other things. On March 11th, 2020, The NBA season was the first to fall victim, following Rudy Gobert’s positive test. Shortly after that, the NCAA called off March Madness, and MLB delayed the start of their season.
Three months later, the NBA resumed its season in a “bubble” in Walt Disney World and completed the remainder of its schedule without significant issues. MLB played a 60 game season with no fans in the stands. The NFL did so as well, playing the entire regular season without fans in the stands.
COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive
By late 2020, three COVID-19 vaccines had been developed, and many wondered how various sports leagues would approach vaccination for their upcoming season.
The NBA’s Policy
The NBA took a vaccine mandate off the table almost immediately in negotiations with the players association, at least for players. Most team staff and all referees were required to get the vaccine before the preseason’s start.
Unvaccinated players will be subject to the following rules
- Daily testing prior to entering team facilities or interacting with staff or players
- Lab-based gameday testing
- No indoor dining within the same room as other players, or staff who work within 15 feet of players
- Remain 6 feet away from any people
- Wear a face mask in almost all situations in team facilities
- Locker as far from vaccinated players as possible
- Will have to remain home for all but essential activities, such as grocery shopping, or taking children to school.
- Seven-day quarantine if deemed a close contact
Vaccinated players will not be subject to any of these rules and only will be tested if symptomatic or deemed close contact.
In New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, home to the Nets, Knicks, Lakers, Clippers, and Warriors, unvaccinated players will be subject to local COVID-19 vaccine mandates. That means they will not be able to participate in home games all year and will not be paid for those games.
This should not pose an issue for the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Warriors, who are, or expect to be, fully vaccinated by the season opener. The Nets are still waiting on Kyrie Irving, who is currently not compliant with New York’s policy. Recent news suggests that the Nets are preparing to play without their star point guard for half of the season.
Given the potential financial impact, you’d think that this would be an easy decision. Still, some are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Andrew Wiggins And Kyrie Irving
Perhaps the most notable player to hesitate on the vaccine, Wiggins and Irving, commented on the league’s policy. Kyrie specifically was essential in getting the NBA to pull a COVID-19 vaccine mandate off the table as vice president of the players association.
Wiggins has been skeptical of the vaccines and was previously denied a religious exemption.
While skepticism is perfectly natural, and in some situations, necessary, it does not change one thing.
A Welcome Advantage
Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is a competitive advantage. It has been reported that the NBA as a whole is 95 percent vaccinated. Imagine the Nets’ season comes down to a home game, and they lose because Kyrie couldn’t play.
Around the sports world, a push is being made to get athletes vaccinated. Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought back all 22 starters, which itself was a first. When the NFL’s policy was announced, the Buccaneers acted quickly. They became one of the first teams to be 100% vaccinated.
Putting aside the politics, one thing has become clear. Many athletes claim to be team players. In this day and age, what does a team player do?