Approximately 20 months ago, the NBA became the first professional sports league to postpone its season due to COVID-19. Now, just weeks before the start of 2022, coronavirus is still the league’s most prevalent issue.
The vast majority of NBA players have received the vaccine. Though several unvaccinated players including Kyrie Irving still remain. But starting next month, road trips to play the Toronto Raptors will potentially reveal more unvaccinated players who will be subject to both public ridicule and punishments from the league.
Canada is strengthening its COVID-19 border policy on January 15
As the world hopes to put an end to this pandemic, Canada is taking significant measures. And the result will directly impact the NBA, among others.
Beginning on January 15, 2022, only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed entry into Canada. That includes professional and amateur athletes, a group that previously received an exemption from the country.
The rule will ban unvaccinated players from visiting the Raptors of the NBA, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB and any of the seven Canadian teams of the NHL. However, players with a medical or religious exemption must quarantine for 14 days upon entry into Canada.
The NBA is backing the Canadian government
Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA have no choice but to follow the rules of the Canadian government. But that’s hardly a problem. In fact, the league is choosing to come down heavy-handed against players ineligible to play the Raptors across the border.
In a memo obtained by The Athletic sent from the league to all 30 teams, unvaccinated players will now be subject to fines, suspension, or reduced pay for missing games in Toronto. Additionally, ESPN reported that any unvaccinated NBA player who leaves the country will be unable to re-enter the United States.
Within the same memo, the league is asking for teams to provide a list of all unvaccinated players by Friday. The NBA, which technically isn’t forcing players to receive the vaccine, said 97% of its players are fully vaccinated with 60% receiving a booster shot.
There will be no more guessing who is or isn’t vaccinated
There are 510 active players according to NBA.com. So based on the league’s memo, approximately 15 players are still unvaccinated.
We know Irving’s stance on the matter quite well. Others like Bradley Beal, Jonathan Isaac, and Michael Porter Jr. have also spoken out against the vaccine. Though that still leaves a handful of players whose status remains a mystery.
It’s quite possible each team’s list of unvaccinated players will leak ahead of January 15. Otherwise, fans and media members will get a very good idea about each player if one or more is ineligible to cross the border.
The NBA would love to get 100% of its players vaccinated. We’ll now see if Canada’s law mixed with punishments and outcry can get it there.