NBA referees and many members of team personnel will have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 during the 2021-22 NBA season, but that won't be the case for the players. NBA players are not expected to be subject to vaccine mandates, according to Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The league and the players union — the NBPA — are reportedly still in talks regarding COVID-19 protocols for the season, but the NBPA is not willing to entertain the idea of a vaccine mandate for players. A mandate is a "non-starter," according to ESPN.
Though it won't be required, roughly 85 percent of NBA players are already vaccinated.
The NBA reportedly plans to introduce strict COVID-19 protocols for players who are unvaccinated, per ESPN. It's possible those protocols could convince currently unvaccinated players to receive the vaccine. That happened in the NFL, where Buffalo Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie got vaccinated after being fined by the league for breaking protocols.
Players in New York, San Francisco must abide by vaccine mandates
The NBA also reportedly told teams in New York and San Francisco that players will be subject to local vaccination requirements. Policies introduced in both New York and San Francisco require people attending certain indoor activities in those cities to be vaccinated. In August, the Brooklyn Nets announced fans and employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to attend games.
Those requirements will apply to players on the Nets, New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors. Unvaccinated players on those teams will only be allowed to play home games if they can provide an approved medical or religious exemption.
A September report by Shams Charania of The Athletic suggested unvaccinated visiting players would be allowed to play in New York and San Francisco. No reasoning was given for that decision.