“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells 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?”
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
When asked directly about Irving’s vaccination status — or his plans to change it — multiple people familiar with his thinking declined to answer directly. But one confidant and family member floated to Rolling Stone the idea of anti-vaxx players skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance… or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.
“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs the seven-time All-Star’s family foundation and is one of the few people in his regular circle of advisors. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”
A spokeswoman for Irving declined to respond to a list of questions regarding his vaccination and playing status, and Irving did not immediately respond to a message from Rolling Stone. But as teams return to pre-season training camps next week, fifty to sixty NBA players have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, league sources tell RS. Most are considered merely reluctant skeptics. Some of the holdouts, however, amount to their own shadow roster of anti-vaxxers mounting a behind-the-scenes resistance to Covid protocols — and the truth.
Isaac considers un-vaxxed players to be vilified and bullied, and he thinks “it’s an injustice” to automatically make heroes out of vaccinated celebrities. He rejects the NBA’s proposal for a vaccine mandate and social distancing for players like him during team travel: “You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests. We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent. “If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Enes Kanter — the veteran center, devout Muslim and outspoken liberal — senses a creep of the religious right upon his workplace, which just happens to involve players like Isaac sweating all over him and yelling in his face: “If a guy’s not getting vaccinated because of his religion, I feel like we are in a time where the religion and science has to go to together,” he tells RS. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious guys — I’m like: ‘It saves people’s lives, so what is more important than that?’”
Confusion and concern has been rampant this week among the Warriors’ organization as disparate situations played out with Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga, who were both thought to have refused the vaccination against coronavirus with less than a handful of days before training camp opens. Just as San Francisco clarified its rules Friday, it became increasingly clear that Wiggins is still unvaccinated and won’t be allowed into Chase Center for games, while Kuminga is at the very least in the process of being vaccinated.
The Chronicle learned this week that the team is also concerned about the vaccination status of Kuminga. Earlier this week, a league source said that Kuminga, the seventh pick in this year’s NBA draft, was not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, in a text thread with The Chronicle, Kuminga indicated he was at least on his way to becoming vaccinated. He first said he wanted to check to see if he needed to get another shot before the start of the season, then said a second shot would come Oct. 22. Finally, the rookie forward said: “I’m vaccinated, man.”
Sean Cunningham: Andrew Wiggins request for religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccination denied by the NBA. League statement below. pic.twitter.com/kXFGXiS8hy
A number of its players had declined to receive COVID-19 vaccine shots. The team was worried that an outbreak could derail its postseason hopes. Team executives began setting up meetings aimed at swaying the unvaccinated players. They provided data outlining the scientific benefits to them as individuals and to their families as well as information regarding the safety of the vaccine. That didn’t work.
Next, the team tried dangling the NBA’s updated and more relaxed COVID protocols, which made life easier for vaccinated players. They faced fewer tests, had fewer restrictions and, crucially, were not required to quarantine after an exposure to the virus. The unvaccinated players still didn’t budge. Finally, the team tried appealing to the players’ self-interests. There was money to be made in the postseason, it told the players, whether via playoff bonuses, contract incentives, or by flourishing under the spotlight and burnishing their respective reputations.
That pitch didn’t work, either. The team finished the season with less than 70% of its players vaccinated. "We tried everything," a staff member from that team told FOX Sports. "None of it mattered."
Now, with the 2021-22 regular season just a month away and players returning to their local markets for training camp next week, a number of NBA organizations find themselves confronting similar challenges, only with more urgency. The combination of new league protocols and more stringent local regulations could create an environment in which vaccine hesitancy becomes an issue that impacts on-court results. In other words, the final standings this season could very well be impacted by the vaccination status of players.
The NBA, according to a league spokesman, believes that around 85% of its players are currently vaccinated; National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts put the number at 90% during a July interview with Yahoo Sports. Those numbers are about 10-to-15% more than the overall rate of American adults who are vaccinated. But that still means that somewhere between 50 and 70 NBA players remain unvaccinated, an average of more than two per squad. Depending on how those players are grouped, what city they play in, and how good they are, it’s clear that any team entering the season with low vaccination rates will be at a competitive disadvantage.
One player who could be affected is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. According to multiple league sources, Irving has yet to receive a vaccine shot. Both the Nets and a spokeswoman for Irving declined to comment on the record about Irving’s vaccination status, but Nets general manager Sean Marks was asked during a news conference on Tuesday whether New York City’s mandate could sideline any of his team’s players.
Chris Kirschner: The Hawks will be 100 percent vaccinated by the start of the season. One player is receiving his second shot next week.
Two days after Sean Marks told the media he’s “confident” that his team will meet league and city standards on COVID vaccinations by Opening Night, Yaron Weitzman of FOX Sports reports that Irving “has yet to receive a vaccine shot,” citing “multiple league sources,” not further identified. Specifically, here’s what Weitzman reported Thursday afternoon, as part of a larger piece on the status of the NBA’s vaccination policies days before the opening of training camp... According to multiple league sources, Irving has yet to receive a vaccine shot. Both the Nets and a spokeswoman for Irving declined to comment on the record
James said his vaccination status was a “family” conversation and “private thing” when he was asked about it in May. Earlier in the month, former Laker point guard Dennis Schröder told a German-language publication that he and James were the only Lakers players who hadn’t received the vaccine, before later telling reporters he was the only Laker not vaccinated. Dwight Howard previously questioned the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines during an Instagram Live in July 2020. Kent Bazemore also told reporters that he wasn’t planning on getting the vaccine. Back in March, when he was with the Warriors, he said he considered the decision a “lifestyle thing.” Pelinka did not name which players have yet to be vaccinated.
It's probably not an overstatement at all to say the Washington Wizards have been affected more by the coronavirus than any other NBA team. They were the first team to experience a major outbreak last season with six of their games postponed in January. Then, star guard Bradley Beal had to exit Team USA just days before the Olympics because of a positive test. And then, during the Las Vegas Summer League, their roster was once again deeply affected by an outbreak, notably preventing point guard Cassius Winston from appearing in a game.
So, while it's a pertinent question for any professional sports team these days, the Wizards' vaccination rate arguably carries more importance as they prepare to enter a new season. Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard addressed the media on Thursday ahead of the team's training camp opening next week and was asked a series of questions about the team's vaccination efforts. He stopped short of specifics to protect players' privacy. "Everything is great. We have our roster, everybody is fully-educated and fully-informed. We will be in compliance and we're looking forward to the season," Sheppard said. "A lot of that stuff, you're getting into some personal and private information. We're not going to go down that road. But we'll be in great compliance with the NBA and moving forward."
Bill Oram: Rob Pelinka just said on Zoom the Lakers will be a "fully vaccinated" team by opening night. Pelinka said he is "grateful we won't have interruptions by unvaccinated status of a player or a staff member."
The Warriors recently connected Wiggins with an Oakland doctor who understands issues surrounding vaccine hesitancy, sources said. The doctor explained the suffering and deaths she has witnessed in patients who contracted the coronavirus, sources said, but Wiggins remains unmoved in his decision against vaccination.
San Francisco requires full vaccination to be allowed indoors for entertainment, including large events like NBA games at 18,000-seat Chase Center. New York City is the only other NBA market currently facing such restrictions. League sources believe the NBA will grant Wiggins a religious exemption, but San Francisco has the power to override it inside the city.
Joe Mussatto: The Thunder will require full or partial COVID vaccinations for fans, or a negative test 72 hours prior to a game, the team announced.
Marc Davis, the a member of the executive board of the basketball referees' union and a referee himself for more than two decades, said in an interview that the agreement was born of a strong relationship with the NBA, and the referees were broadly in favor of the mandate. This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Can you tell me how the vaccine mandate came about? Marc Davis: When you have a collaborative environment between management and labor, I think you're constantly always working through issues and there's a constant dialogue back and forth. I think if I would have to say who introduced the idea, I think it's more the relationship and the constant conversation that came up.
Was there a significant amount of resistance from those within the union whom this would affect? Marc Davis: From a numbers perspective, I would say no. But their voices were heard. We articulated their concerns. We worked through those issues. A principle issue that was of concern was the FDA approval. And we worked through that issue to where one of the things we negotiated was that no one would be required prior to FDA approval. So that's kind of a common-sense approach to it. You know, obviously, FDA approval came at or about the same time that we reached the agreement. With the understanding that the players are your co-workers, was there resistance along the lines of 'Why should we agree to a mandate if the players haven't agreed to one?' Marc Davis: No, because we know that when we initially began our conversations that they had begun conversations as well. We just reached an agreement prior to them. We did it at our own pace. We weren't concerned with another group's decision.
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA has informed teams of set coronavirus testing protocols for players for the 2021-22 season: Fully-vaccinated: No regular testing Non-fully-vaccinated: One negative test on Practice/Travel day; One negative test on Game Day.
NBA players will not be mandated to get vaccinated against COVID-19, league sources tell ESPN. The NBA and NBPA continue to negotiate aspects of COVID-related protocols and procedures for the upcoming 2021-22 campaign, but the NBPA has refused to budge on whether players would be mandated to take the vaccine, sources say, and that aspect of negotiations remains a "non-starter."
Roughly 85% of players are vaccinated, a league spokesman recently said, and, in a preliminary memo obtained by ESPN in early September, the league outlined a set of strict protocols for unvaccinated players. Such protocols include having lockers far from vaccinated teammates or having to eat, fly and ride buses in different sections. These protocols are not final and are still subject to talks with the NBPA.
The N.B.A. players' union did not respond to a request for comment on where it stands on vaccine mandates. In June, the W.N.B.A. announced that 99 percent of its players had been fully vaccinated. A spokesman for the N.B.A. said that number was approximately 85 percent for N.B.A. players, and that the league was “in discussions with the union on a variety of topics for the season including vaccinations.”
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA has informed teams that it anticipates that fully vaccinated players and team personnel will not be required to undergo regular coronavirus testing during 2021-22 season. Non-fully vaccinated players/personnel will undergo regular testing.
Shams Charania: Fully vaccinated individuals: Not required to quarantine if close contact. No restrictions on team activities. Non-fully-vaccinated: Required to quarantine for seven days if close contact. Masks at facilities/team travel. Not able to sit next to other players during activities.
Shams Charania: If all players on a team are fully vaccinated, NBA and NBPA anticipate there would be no restrictions on those players‘ away-from-work activities (such as accessing indoor bars, clubs, lounges), sources said.
Bill de Blasio: The @BrooklynNets are the champs in our hearts (and, I got a feeling about this season!) Their commitment to getting New Yorkers vaccinated is an inspiration. Get vaccinated and keep your family safe. It’s a slam dunk:
Shams Charania: Sources: Unvaccinated NBA players in markets with local requirements — such as NYC (Knicks, Nets) and SF (Warriors) — will not be allowed to enter home arenas or facilities for games or team activities conducted there unless there’s approved medical or religious exemption.
Shams Charania: This follows local governmental policies, meaning unvaccinated players on the Nets, Knicks and Warriors are not allowed to play in home games. Visiting players are exempt from the vaccination requirements in NYC and SF.
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA will return to normal team bench seating for the 2021-22 season, with teams no longer requiring cool down/timeout chairs or assigned seats. Game day personnel are currently expected to be required to wear facemasks at start of season.
Tim Reynolds: The @OfficialNBARefs say of the vaccination agreement with the NBA: "This agreement was a win-win. It will support the NBA’s objective of creating a safer on-court environment and continuity of play while protecting the health and well-being of the referees.” The @OfficialNBARefs also described the move as “a clear example of when labor and management work together for the common good of their collective business."
The NBA informed teams Friday that all personnel under team control who work within 15 feet of players or referees during games will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the upcoming season, according to a memo obtained by ESPN. The directive specifically includes coaches, front-office members and trainers but stops short of requiring all players to be vaccinated.
Charles Barkley is urging Alabamians to get stuck with Chuck. The Leeds native and Auburn and NBA basketball legend brings his plea for widespread vaccination against COVID-19 to a vaccine rally on Saturday, Aug. 28. The event, presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC), will provide walk-up and drive-in vaccines at Legion Field on Aug. 28, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Jason Caffey is the only candidate in Mobile – or anywhere else in Alabama – who can claim he was a teammate with the legendary Michael Jordan. Caffey, who played college basketball at the University of Alabama, was a first-round pick during the 1995 NBA Draft, and played eight years in the NBA. He won two championships as a reserve forward for the 1996 and 1997 Chicago Bulls. The team was led by Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and was coached by Phil Jackson.
Caffey, during a televised candidates forum, admitted he was a “not a man of many words,” but had some strong and controversial views on certain issues: He believes that if not economically feasible, Mobile doesn’t need to have Amtrak return to the city, and he also admitted to not being vaccinated.
“We have large fan bases who want to cheer on their teams in person,” noted MSG Sports president Andrew Lustgarten. “And from our surveys, we know this market wants vaccinated fans.” MSG Sports’ internal surveys showed 85% of fans felt more comfortable in a vaccinated environment, Lustgarten added.
Five local pro-basketball players are paying it back to their community by encouraging the youth to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It's all a part of the new "Shot for a Shot" event that takes place next Tuesday, August 24. People ages 12-17 who get vaccinated at the clinic can get their pictures taken with Isaiah Stewart, Naz Carter, Anthony Lamb, Quinton Rose and Antwoine Anderson.
NBA legends Dikembe Mutombo and Dominique Wilkins joined DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond on Aug. 14 at South DeKalb Mall, where they pushed for people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. County officials said the event was a slam dunk: Over 1,100 people got their shots.
As many Americans hesitate to get vaccinated against COVID-19, NBA legend Spencer Haywood is teaming up with a medical school in Las Vegas to tackle the mistrust of the health care system prevalent in some communities of color. The Basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist has joined the dean's advisory committee at Roseman University College of Medicine to work on programs increasing diversity in medicine to tackle this issue.
According to Haywood, a lack of diversity in medicine is one of the factors that leads communities of color to mistrust the system and one that he hopes to tackle through his partnership with Roseman. "It helps when you have a person of your own ilk and your color to come to you and say, 'Hey, you know, it's OK to get the vaccine,'" Haywood said, adding that it's important to train more doctors of color who can serve their own communities.
The Golden State Warriors and Chase Center have remained in constant communication with the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. Following today’s mandate from the San Francisco Department of Public Health that any indoor event with more than 1,000 attendees requires fans ages 12 or older to show proof of vaccination, Chase Center will comply with this guideline effective as of the venue’s next event, scheduled for September 15, 2021.
The Lakers, Kings, Ducks, Galaxy and Chargers have mandated vaccinations for full-time employees at offices within the United States, according to a statement Wednesday from AEG, the parent company of the Kings and Galaxy and the Staples Center landlord of the Lakers. The requirement would include “limited exceptions as required by law,” the statement said.
The mandate would not apply to athletes. Players on those teams are represented by unions, and working conditions generally are negotiated in collective bargaining.
The San Antonio Spurs are joining in the efforts to get Travis County residents vaccinated. The team will be hosting a vaccine clinic at Thursday's NBA Draft Watch Party at Armadillo Den in Austin. The county's fire department will be on site to safely administer the vaccinations. Anyone who gets a vaccine will be given a free pair of Spurs sunglasses.
“Yes, I’m vaccinated,” says NBA legend Charles Barkley. “Everybody should be vaccinated. Period.” “The only people who are not vaccinated are just a--holes,” he says.
Mark Cuban: I’ll tell you what Cole. You get vaccinated and promote vaccination on all your social, I’ll buy your wife a share of Pfizer stock. It pays a 3.78% dividend. That way she is getting a percentage of Pfizer’s earnings. Deal ?
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety player protocols for 2021 Summer League in Las Vegas:
Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic said that he’s been trying to buy a supply of unused vaccines from the United States and send them to his native Bosnia. Unfortunately, he’s not legally allowed to do it. “They just have donations, but not enough to vaccinate the people,” Nurkic said in a story by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “I tried to buy it for the whole country. I figured out the money, the plan and everything. But we still can’t do it.” “Even if we find vaccines, I guess United States laws say that until the American people are vaccinated, you can’t sell it. So, I don’t know what else to do. I really tried.”
There’s been an abundance of COVID-19 vaccines in the USA and Nurkic feels frustrated by the fact that he can’t purchase it to help the people of his country while others refuse to get it. “All these countries are suffering and you have the United States, obviously the No. 1 in the world, has the vaccines and people don’t want to get vaccinated,” Nurkic said. “I just feel like humanity has kind of failed, because all the countries around should get at least some of those vaccines, right?”
On Wednesday, July 14, the Milwaukee Bucks are donating two tickets to Game 4 of the NBA Finals to be raffled off to anyone who gets vaccinated on-site before the game. The vaccination clinic will be open in the Fiserv Forum Plaza beginning at 6 p.m. The winner will be randomly selected at 7:45 p.m.
The Toronto Raptors were the only team in the National Basketball Association not to play in its home arena this season, due to Covid-19 restrictions. On Sunday, they’re handing over the venue to health authorities to smash Canada’s one-day record for vaccinations at a single site. About 25,000 people have appointments for the clinic at the Scotiabank Arena, located in the city’s financial district. Joe Cressy, the chair of the city’s board of health, has claimed it’s bigger than any clinic in the world.
Ben Collins: John Stockton (yes, that one) is in this particularly over-the-top anti-vaxx documentary trailer talking about "my significant amount of research" about COVID-19. The documentary's page asks "Do Masks Really Work?" and "How Will We Really Know That a COVID Vaccine is Safe?"
Ben Collins: Here's Stockton's part in the trailer. (Yes, the music is like the end of a Marvel movie basically the entire time.)
Those in attendance must still abide by arena protocols, including wearing a mask when not eating or drinking. In an email to fans, the Clippers said spectators are required to attest to being either fully vaccinated — with their last shot of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines coming at least two weeks before — or attest to a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours.
After a successful vaccination clinic and ticket raffle during Game 3, the Milwaukee Health Department is teaming up with the Milwaukee Bucks again for Game 6. On Thursday, June 17, the Health Department’s vaccination team will be on-site in the plaza at Fiserv Forum from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone who receives their vaccination will be eligible to enter to win two tickets to that night’s 7:30 p.m. playoff game.
Nets Daily: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Trevor Noah joined a crowd 15,750 last night, 98% vaccinated. That's a sellout and only 2,000 short of normal NBA capacity at Barclays. Unlike Knicks (who no longer are playing ICYMI), Barclays is selling tickets to unvaccinated who sit in reserved sections.
Harrison Faigen: Frank Vogel says that the biggest changes for the Lakers since reaching the 85% vaccination threshold are that they can do film sessions in their theater room, and they don't have to wear masks during practice.
With the Lakers having reached the 85% COVID-19 vaccine threshold on Monday — which allows for lesser restrictions — they were finally able to utilize their film room for the first time this season on Wednesday and they didn’t have to wear face masks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Prior to attaining the threshold, film studies were conducted on the practice court with masked-up players and coaches spread out across the facility and doors were left open for ventilation. Multiple Lakers players told Yahoo Sports that Wednesday’s session felt “normal” again.
“You don’t realize how important and productive it is to have film sessions in an intimate setting until you lose it,” one Lakers player told Yahoo Sports. “When guys are together in close proximity, you’re much more engaged, and especially when you don’t have to wear a mask.”
New Yorkers who get vaccinated at Madison Square Garden will have a chance to score a free ticket to a Knicks playoff game starting Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced. “The New York Knicks are joining us to speed up the vaccinations in the city, to reach more people and keep them safe,” Hizzoner said during his daily virtual press briefing while wearing a blue Knicks cap. “The Knicks are bringing the vaccination effort right there, to the Garden.”
Chris Haynes: Being around LeBron James for years, he’s always been private about his medical and never been one to endanger his family or teammates. This statements puts one thing to rest: he’s been vaccinated.
The Portland Trail Blazers, local government and Oregon Health Authority have partnered on a first-of-its-kind proposal, promoting vaccinations across Oregon while increasing Moda Center capacity with Vaccinated Sections. The announcement comes just in time for Rip City to cheer on the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers as they host the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in round one of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs, presented by Moda Health and your local Toyota dealers. The Trail Blazers are the only team with a playoffs berth in each of the last eight seasons. The Trail Blazers will host games three and four of the best-of-seven series at Moda Center May 27 at 7:30 p.m. and May 29 at 1:00 p.m. After Saturday’s win, the Blazers are 1-0 in the series, and will face the Nuggets again tonight in Denver at 7:00 p.m. If necessary, game five will return to Denver on June 1; game six at Moda Center on June 3; and a decisive game seven back in Denver on June 5.
Stefan Bondy: Tom Thibodeau says Knicks have not yet reached 85% vaccination threshold. He adds that they’re close and it’s a personal decision
It would appear, however, that there is at least one other player on the Lakers besides Schroder who has not been vaccinated. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Friday that L.A.'s roster has not passed the 85% vaccination threshold the league requires -- a minimum of 15 out of 17 players -- in order for a team to have its health and safety restrictions lessened moving forward.
Harrison Faigen: Frank Vogel tells @Bill Oram that the Lakers have not reached the 85% of the travel party vaccinated threshold that lead to loosened protocols on the road. He says the Lakers are "hopeful" they will get there so they can bond and be together on the road more.
September 26, 2022 | 5:44 pm EDT Update
Veteran forward Jae Crowder asked not to come to training camp, and the Suns announced they’d granted the request Sunday. Crowder was informed over the summer that he may lose his starting job this season, sources said, and it prompted him to request a trade. The Suns had discussions about it throughout the summer but hadn’t found a deal yet. But it seems clear his time with the team is over.