For the third time since the COVID-19 pandemics started, the National Basketball Association, NBA, will start a new season. This will be the second full season since the pandemic was first declared. However, this season is the first that coronavirus vaccine mandates have been in effect.
Due to players potentially missing a majority of the season, there is an increase in controversy around the league with regards to vaccines. This is due to the indoor vaccine requirements for cities like San Francisco and New York City. These restrictions will affect the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks teams the most.
All Star Kyrie Irving, shooting guard for the Brooklyn Nets, has openly come out against the vaccine, and Warriors star Andrew Wiggins originally came out against getting the vaccine but has now reportedly received the shot. Despite being on two separate teams they face the same problem of either getting the vaccine or not play in any of the home games this upcoming season.
Kyrie Irving has been known as an anti-vaxxer as a result of his multiple comments on vaccine hesitancy. For Wiggins, this is his first remark on vaccines and attempted to claim an exemption from the league under religious purposes, but the NBA denied this request.
Due to potentially forfeiting all playing time at home games, the two players have not yet decided what they will do. This will then include them forfeiting their game checks after the NBA declared they will not get paid if they do not get vaccinated.
While the NBA itself is not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for players, they are subject to local requirements. In the case of San Francisco and New York, city health rules require everyone to show proof of vaccination to attend a large, indoor event, and the NBA is strictly following local rules.
With the season starting soon and players participating in practice and media days, many members of the media have asked players about the situation. When Wiggins was asked about forfeiting money he replied “I know” followed by “It’s my problem, not yours.” Wiggins also stated his teammates backed him and he is confident with his decision.
On the other side of America, Kyrie Irving attended the Nets first media day virtually after reports of his vaccine status. Irving was asked countless times about his stance and vaccine status and stated “I would love to just keep that private. Handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan.”
While many NBA players back their decision, the NBA players association has come out with claims that 90 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated. One player to support them was Lebron James who backed up Draymond Green, teammate of Wiggins, comments about understanding Wiggins and Irving. James also said “We are talking about people’s bodies, not politics.”
(Sources: SB Nation, Forbes, NBC, NBA)