Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed that Andrew Wiggins — one of the players in danger of missing home games (and pay checks) due to local vaccination requirements — is now vaccinated and eligible to play in San Francisco when the regular season begins.
“Andrew got vaccinated,” Kerr told reporters (via ESPN). “He just told me today that he was fine with us acknowledging it and that will be the end of it. I’m not going to answer any questions beyond that.”
While the NBA’s rift with unvaccinated players wages on through the first week of training camp, the league confirmed Wednesday that unvaccinated players who can’t play in cities where vaccination is required will not be paid for the games they miss.
“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a brief statement Wednesday.
The NBA’s ruling impacts players league-wide, but potentially and especially the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins, a pair of high-profile, max-contract players who play in markets — New York City and San Francisco, respectively — where the vaccination requirement is mandated.
If both players, who are currently unvaccinated, miss their team’s home games — 41 games for each player — Irving stands to lose $17.5 million this season and Wiggins $15.8 million, Forbes Sports’ Tommy Beer noted.
Irving dodged questions about his playing status and his troubling, conspiracy-minded stance on the Covid-19 vaccine during the Nets’ media day Monday, asking reporters to “Please respect my privacy.” Nets’ teammate Kevin Durant also downplayed the situation, telling reporters, “I expect it not to be an issue. We trust in Kyrie and I expect us to have our whole team at some point.”
Wiggins previously attempted to sidestep San Francisco’s vaccine requirement via a religious exemption, but the NBA denied that request.
As Rolling Stone reported this weekend, the NBA players association shot down the league’s attempts to mandate that all players get vaccinated, with the union calling the proposal a “non-starter.” As our article noted, distrust and conspiracy theories have permeated in NBA locker rooms, with Irving — a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union — recently liking an Instagram post that warned of “secret societies” implanting vaccines in a plot to connect black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.”
Even before the NBA’s announcement Wednesday, Irving’s aunt Tyki hinted to Rolling Stone that, if forced to get the vaccine, Kyrie might refuse to play in Brooklyn. “He is going to try to figure that out as it comes, because it’s not religious-based, it’s moral-based,” she said. “You may have to sit on the sideline, you might not have to be in the arena during this. If it’s that freaking important to get a vaccine that, hell, it’s still not preventing the Covid” — which it is — “then I’d rather them working it out that way than to say, ‘Hey, if you don’t get the vaccine, then you can’t be a part of the franchise that you fuckin’ helped build.’”
As of last week, the NBA estimated that 90-percent of its approximately 450-player league has been vaccinated; during media day, teams like the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers touted that their franchises’ players were 100-percent vaccinated.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told 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?”