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Report: COVID-19 vaccinations will not be mandatory for NBA players

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Unvaccinated players will face more rigorous safety protocols

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

According to a report from ESPN, NBA Players will not be required to be vaccinated to participate in the upcoming NAB season.

The report indicates that the NBPA has refused to budge on the notion of a vaccine mandate.

Referees, coaches, and team personnel that work within 15 feet of the players all must be vaccinated. Unvaccinated players, meanwhile, will face stricter health and safety regulations than their vaccinated peers, including socially-distanced lockers and having to eat and travel away from vaccinated players. They’ll also have to be tested regularly. (Players in cities with vaccine mandates, like New York and San Francisco, may well have to get the vaccines to play at home.)

For the Toronto Raptors, MLSE has already announced that Scotiabank Arena staff and anyone attending games as either a fan or media must be fully vaccinated. This doesn’t appear to extend to players, though I do hope for their own safety that all Raptors players are vaccinated.

There are many legitimate reasons why African-Americans are hesitant to get vaccines; of course, there are many more illegitimate reasons why people are refusing. Either way, it comes as no surprise to me that the Players’ Association is against the idea of a mandate.

But I do wonder if, internally among teams, players who are not vaccinated will face pressure from their teammates to get the shot.

Team camaraderie and chemistry may well take a hit if players can’t sit and eat with their teammates. And what if players have a close contact tracing issue and have to miss games, or even worse, actually contract COVID? One only need look at the Raptors last year to see what sort of impact that can have. If unvaccinated players are seen as causing a team to lose games or miss the playoffs, the vaccinated players will surely be none too pleased.

Ultimately though, the most important thing is the safety of the players, as well as the people around them, from team and arena staffers to families to fans. Hopefully players will continue to get vaccinated, not because of a mandate or peer pressure, but because it’s the safest and most effective way to protect themselves and those around them from COVID-19.