NBA Won’t Require Players To Be Vaccinated

As COVID-19 roils on, taking on new forms and even weirder variant names, the NBA remains steadfast on its protocols.

According to a report on Tuesday by ESPN, the league will not mandate vaccines for its players. The news comes on the heels of President Joe Biden announcing vaccine mandates impacting up to 100 million Americans.

Nearly 85 percent of NBA players are vaccinated, according to reports. However, the league has outlined protocols for unvaccinated players to ensure safety.

These protocols include locker rooms restructured away from vaccinated teammates. Dining, flying, and bus rides employing different sections to separate vaccinated from unvaccinated.

However, all protocols are subject to talks with the National Basketball Players Association and therefore not finalized.

Additionally, with the new vaccine requirement laws in New York and San Francisco, teams like the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Golden State Warriors are different. The NBA informed teams and their players of this in early September.

Approved medical or religious exemptions are considered for these regional teams, according to reports.

New Realities

On Aug. 27, the NBA informed teams that all team personnel who work within 15 feet of players or referees during games are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to reports, the mandate goes into effect for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

Team personnel includes all coaches, front-office, and training staff. However, the mandate also applies to personnel working near the hardwood.

These include broadcasters, scoreboard operators, photographers, media relations, social media producers, and security. In addition, all back-of-house operational staff: locker room attendants, equipment managers, medical staff, food and beverage handlers, and providers.

According to reports, the NBA has set a deadline of Oct. 1 for team personnel to be fully vaccinated. In addition, the league suggested the possibility of a booster shot requirement at a later date.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. Exemptions apply for the cases of unionized workers. The NBA cannot force them to vaccinate. Also, those with religious or documented medical reasons are exempt.

Flags Before Plays

Additionally, the NBA announced on Aug. 28 that it made a deal with the National Basketball Referees Association for a vaccine mandate. Referees working games will also receive booster shots when they become recommended.

However, the booster shot recommendation is also part of the referees’ agreement with the NBA.

“This agreement was born of a strong relationship with the NBA and the referees were broadly in favor of the mandate,” said Marc Davis, member of the executive board of the basketball referees union, to The New York Times.

Reputation of Responsibility

The NBA has a stellar reputation for resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the NBA pioneered the bubble system in Orlando, Florida, during the height of the pandemic. The bubble allowed teams to play against each other with only limited contact with the outside world.

In JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers published an investigation of the NBA “bubble” campus.

The retrospective cohort study used data collected from June 11–Oct. 19, 2020. The camp required daily COVID-19 testing and restricted outside access. Additionally, almost 4,000 NBA players, staff, and vendors participated.

Additionally, the league has also worked with experts that specialize in infectious disease and public health.

Training camps for all 30 NBA teams begin in late September. Preseason games start in early October, with the start of regular-season play on Oct. 19.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.