Will Local Governments Force NBA Players To Get Vaccinated?

There was some interesting news to begin September for three NBA teams, as the local governments in New York City and San Francisco have implemented a Covid protocol for games played at indoor arenas. The rules might prohibit players from the Knicks, Nets and Warriors from playing on their own home floor if they are not vaccinated in accordance with these new protocols, something the NBA, the Players’ Association and the franchises will need to address. Because they will need to know if local governments will force both NBA and NHL players from competing in their city if they are not vaccinated. 

The first report of this issue facing teams came from Shams Charania of The Athletic, who on Wednesday said that some local governments were not going to permit players from their local teams to enter an arena to play or even practice without being vaccinated for Covid. While these rules seem to exempt players from visiting teams, these rules are believed to be in effect for indoor arenas in New York City and San Francisco, home to the Knicks, Nets and Warriors. Like with others, these rules apply to all those who do not have a medical or religious exemption from getting a Covid vaccination.

With fans paying thousands of dollars for courtside seats at an NBA game, it’s no wonder that local governments would require all those on both sides of the sidelines to be vaccinated. After all, one fan in the wrong seat could start a Covid outbreak among two franchises that could become a league wide issue in just a week.

As someone who lives in New York, I can tell you that indoor activities of all kinds, including dining out and going to the gym are a focal point for local government, with both activities requiring proof of a vaccination before partaking in either. With that in mind, I have no doubt local governments would not think twice before making an example of NBA players such as James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, by keeping them off the court rather than letting them play an NBA game without being vaccinated.

As the NBA gets close to opening their training camps, this story bears watching since we are bound to have a showdown between one city’s mayor and the league over this safety concern, with the league providing all the high-profile publicity a government official needs to make a point. As someone who rides the New York City subways without knowing who is and isn’t vaccinated, I am not sure why the same “masks for everyone” rules don’t apply to games or concerts. Perhaps that will be the legal basis for when a player or their union is forced to take a government to court to fight for their ability to fulfill a labor contract … because truthfully, that may be where this rule, along with many of the other rules being imposed by local governments are headed.

Someone call a law firm, because this one is going to likely need some time to play out and be sorted out. 

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