With COVID-19 still very much a thing—that new “mu” variant sounds sublime!—just about every state not named Texas or Florida has ramped up measures to protect American citizens from the pandemic. New York City and San Francisco, in particular, are very much about that “prove you’re vaccinated or stay your ass home” life, which has put the NBA on an inevitable crash course with local coronavirus guidelines.
This brings us to the fact that many professional athletes—some of whom are no longer gainfully employed due, in part, to their stance on the COVID-19 vaccine—are unvaccinated. So what is the league to do about this conundrum? For teams that play in New York City or San Francisco, the answer is simple: they don’t play.
Unvaccinated players for three marquee NBA teams would have to sit out home games in the upcoming season under local coronavirus restrictions.
Players on the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors will have to get vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless they have a valid religious or medical exemption, the league told front offices in a Wednesday memo obtained by CNBC. The requirement will not apply to visiting players.
Both New York City and San Francisco have set rules requiring people over the age of 12 to prove they have received a Covid-19 vaccine in order to enter arenas, gyms, restaurants and other indoor venues. The rules cover team arenas and practice facilities in those cities, the NBA said.
As ardent fans of the sport are acutely aware, every NBA team plays an 82 game schedule that’s split down the middle between home and road games. So imagine what type of impact it would have on that team, their respective conference, and the league’s television broadcasting deals if players like Kevin Durant or Steph Curry had to sit out 41 home games. (For the record, this is purely hypothetical as I have no godly idea which NBA players are vaccinated.)
It’s also entirely possible that in order to impose uniformity, that the NBA extends the same protocols throughout the rest of the league; or that other markets—like Los Angeles, which is mulling similar restrictions—will make the decision for them.
The league has yet to mandate vaccines for players, but has confirmed that anyone who plays for the Knicks, Nets or Warriors are subject to fines or suspensions should they decline to do so without a valid exemption.
This is probably the absolute last thing that coaches and front office personnel want to hear with training camp set to begin later this month, but trust and believe that shit is about to get thick quick.