The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver don’t have a mandate dictating that all players receive a COVID-19 vaccine for the 2021-22 season.
At least no official mandate. The league and National Basketball Players Association couldn’t come to an agreement on that.
Unofficially, the league has mandated players receive the vaccine.
Not long after announcing vaccine requirements for non-players (coaches, trainers, scorer’s table workers) and after the National Basketball Referees Association agreed that its refs will be vaccinated, the league on Tuesday sent to teams its 61-page COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the 2021-22 season.
The league made it clear it wants players vaccinated and plans to institute greater restrictions for unvaccinated players.
♦ Vaccinated players are not required to undergo regular testing. Non-vaccinated players will undergo regular testing, including rapid tests when at the team facility, participating in team-organized activities or interacting with other team personnel, and must conduct lab-based pregame testing on game days, according to the memo.
♦ Vaccinated players will not be required to quarantine (unless there are unusual circumstances) if they are in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. They are subject to daily rapid testing for seven days. Non-vaccinated players will be required to quarantine for seven days if they are in close contact with a COVID-19 person.
♦ Non-vaccinated players are prohibited from dining indoors in the same room as vaccinated team personnel.
♦ During team meetings and treatment sessions, non-vaccinated players must maintain at least six feet of distance from another person and must wear a mask and cannot use hydrotherapy space and strength and conditioning space if a vaccinated player is also present.
♦ Non-vaccinated players will be given a locker that is “as distant from other players as possible and not next to another non-fully-vaccinated player.”
♦ On team flights and bus rides, teams must arrange seating so that non-vaccinated players do not sit next to or adjacent to each other.
♦ When in their home market, non-vaccinated players are required to remain at their residence except for essential activities such as trips to the grocery store or taking children to school.
♦ Non-vaccinated players are prohibited from going to restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment venues, large outdoor gathers or other high-risk settings.
♦ It is also possible that non-vaccinated players who can’t play in games where cities require vaccination or miss games while in quarantine will lose salary for each game missed.
The messaging from the league cannot be more direct. Depending on the verb you prefer, the NBA is compelling, cajoling, encouraging, pressuring, forcing, strong-arming players into getting the vaccine.
One general manager told USA TODAY Sports he is glad the NBA is implementing protocols that push players to receive the shot, and an agent told USA TODAY Sports the league is trying to make life as difficult as possible for non-vaccinated players.
The NBA wanted a vaccine mandate, but getting any union to agree that is difficult.
“The league has made these proposals, but the players’ union has rejected any vaccination mandate,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
Said NBPA executive director Michele Roberts in a statement: “Over 90% of our Players are fully vaccinated. Nationally, on average only fifty-five (55%) of Americans are. The real story is not why vaccination isn’t mandated in the NBA. The real story for proponents of vaccination is how can we emulate the Players in the NBA.”
The league and union are finalizing an agreement to have the protocols in place during the preseason.
For players who don’t receive the vaccine, they are at risk of being ostracized, and the league understands that concern. But NBA officials have a greater concern: the health of its players and trying to ensure it has fewer COVID-related issues than last season.