The COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 has impacted virtually every aspect of our lives. In addition to school and work, sports — including the NBA and the NFL — have been dramatically altered. Now that a vaccine is available, there has been a huge push to vaccinate as many people as possible. Several professional athletes are doing their part to help. Charles Barkley has been a major advocate of vaccination, as he held a rally in August in Alabama to try and raise vaccination rates there. Unfortunately, other NBA athletes aren’t as enthusiastic about being required to get vaccinated as their Hall of Fame forward is.
ESPN reports NBA athletes won’t be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines
According to ESPN, league sources have said that NBA players will not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The NBA and NBPA, the players association, are continuing to negotiate regarding COVID-19–related policies and procedures. However, the NBPA is reportedly refusing to give in to players being required to take the vaccine, or any proposal mandating players to be vaccinated.
Teams were notified previously that laws regarding vaccination requirements in New York and San Francisco would be enforced for all members of the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Golden State Warriors, including players. It isn’t clear if that will actually happen based on the stance of the NBPA.
NBA refs and staff are required to be vaccinated
The hypocrisy of this is unbelievable to many, considering the same ESPN article noted that the NBA notified teams in late August “that any personnel under team control who worked within 15 feet of players or officials during games would be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.”
Additionally, the union that represents referees for the NBA is mandating that all referees be fully vaccinated in order to officiate any game. And, several states — such as Washington — are requiring individuals to be vaccinated before attending large events, such as football games. Which means that potentially, fans, officials, and staff will all be required to be vaccinated, but the players will not be.
This is a huge public health concern
Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to increase, with the CDC reporting a total of over 41 million cases as of writing, and over 677,000 deaths due to COVID-19 as of writing. Additionally, the CDC also reports that only 54.9% of the population have been fully vaccinated. And a report published in The BMJ, showed that unvaccinated individuals have a risk 11 times higher of dying from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated individuals.
There have been several tragic stories involving athletes and their families struggling with COVID-19. Center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns lost his mother, as well as six other family members, to COVID-19 — and in January, he tested positive for the virus himself. Jimmy Butler, forward for the Miami Heat, also battled the virus, worrying fans after losing over 12 pounds in one week. Thankfully, both players have made a full recovery.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain resources and devastate families, the vaccine can and does save lives.