As the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA continue to negotiate how the league’s health and safety protocols will be implemented this upcoming season, the NBA is making one thing abundantly clear: If you’re an unvaccinated player and miss games due to local COVID-19 guidelines, your paycheck is gonna be just a liiiiiiiittle short.
On Wednesday, NBA Spokesman Mike Bass dropped the bomb via an announcement delivered by NBA insider Shams Charania: “Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses.”
As we’ve reported extensively at The Root, as cities throughout the country have rolled out measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, New York City and San Francisco specifically have rules in place that require anyone over the age of 12 to provide proof of vaccination prior to entering arenas, gyms, restaurants, and other indoor venues. Coincidentally, the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets just so happen to play in those cities; which means that if players don’t get vaccinated, they are prohibited from participating in any of their own home games.
As you can imagine, that’s kind of a big ass fucking deal considering each team plays 82 games per regular season, and 41 of those are played at home. While this won’t be a problem for a vast majority of the NBA—90 percent to be specific—there are more than a few holdouts, most notably Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins and Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving.
With NBA training camp officially underway and the season set to begin on Oct. 19, teams are scrambling to ensure that all of their players will be available by pushing them to get vaccinated. One such team that has accomplished this feat is the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James confirming his own vaccination status to the media on Tuesday.
After admitting that he was initially “very skeptical” about the vaccines, he ultimately decided that getting vaccinated was “the right thing to do” for not only himself but his family and teammates.
“I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re always trying to figure out ways to always be available and protect one another.”
The Lakers organization must feel a profound sense of relief knowing that while their players won’t be completely immune from the virus, they’ll at least be protected from its more severe effects. The team also won’t have to worry about separated vaccinated and unvaccinated players during travel or in the locker room.
“It’s huge,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel also said on Tuesday. The team had its own struggles with COVID-19 during the 2020 season. “Not every team in the league this year has that luxury, but we do. There were a lot of conversations along the way, and I’m super proud of our guys.”
Recently, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke out against players who refuse to get vaccinated.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” he told Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
All I know is I find it extremely unlikely that players like Wiggins and Irving will be willing to take home half their salary this season, so it will be interesting to see how this stalemate unfolds.