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Pseudo-mandatory Boosters Are Coming—To the NBA

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: November 8, 2021
The NBA has recommended COVID vaccine boosters for all players, but those who don't accept will face game day testing protocols on Dec. 1
Kyrie Irving celebrates after he was fouled during Game One of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series on May 22, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The NBA is requiring all players, coaches, and referees accept a booster dose of a novel COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 1 on penalty of being subject to game day testing protocols. (Image: Elsa/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association is recommending that all players, coaches, and referees accept a booster Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) injection on penalty of being subjected to a game day testing regime. 

The report, which came from the Associated Press on Nov. 7, said the NBA “working jointly based on guidance from the league’s public health and infectious disease experts” made the determination to issue its de facto mandate because “antibody levels for Pfizer and Moderna recipients wane after six months and after two months for Johnson & Johnson recipients.”

The NBA has suggested takers of the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus vector variant opt for a Moderna or Pfizer Messenger RNA injection in place of a second dose, while those who originally dosed two jabs of Pfizer or Moderna “may get whatever booster is available.”


While the edict officially remains at the level of a recommendation rather than a mandate, those who decline to take their booster dose by Dec. 1 face coercion in the form of being subjected to game day testing. 

AP notes, “That Dec. 1 date varies depending on when the person was originally vaccinated and what type of vaccine they received,” but does not elaborate.

At the end of September, AP reported, based on comments from “a person with direct knowledge of the situation” that vaccine acceptance among NBA players was 95 percent. 

The article said the individual revealed the statistic “on condition of anonymity because neither the NBA nor the National Basketball Players Association released the figure publicly.”

The article is, ironically, currently published directly on the NBA’s website.

In another article posted on the League’s website, AP reported, based on a copy of “draft rules” of the NBA’s health and safety protocols another instance of coercion through how the unvaccinated would be treated, “They will not be able to eat in the same room with vaccinated teammates or staff, must have lockers as far away from vaccinated players as possible, and must stay masked and at least six feet away from all other attendees in any team meeting.”

The article notes that unvaccinated players would be required to live under house arrest when their team is playing in their “home market” and relegated to the team hotel while participating in road games.

“Fully vaccinated players — the category that at least 90% of the league falls into — will largely be back to business as usual,” notes the article. 

The unvaccinated are also subjected to a rapid test regime “on days where teams are practicing, traveling, or having similar team events” and will face mandatory lab testing at game day.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told the outlet that the reason the league hadn’t installed a full vaccine mandate was because it required the consent of the Players’ Association.

The Cincinnati Enquirer also reported that as of mid-October, all NBA teams were required to hold an “education and awareness session” involving the general manager and team physician “with players and Tier 1 personnel” to promote vaccine acceptance.

The article tinted the political sessions as being “designed to share information, rather than persuasion, while delivering facts about the vaccine and COVID and dispelling myths about the vaccine.” 

“Personal stories about receiving the vaccine may be shared, too, and teams will relay information about current COVID rates and review protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players.”

Heavy hitting dissent

Arguably the highest profile player in the league to decline vaccination, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, a $35 million annual salary, is unable to play at home because of a New York City-issued mandate requiring at least one dose of injection to play indoors. 

As a result, the Nets simply benched their star player for the season.

Heavy reported on Nov. 8 that Irving will, all the same, appear on the 2022 All Star Game ballot because he is benched and not suspended, leading to a situation where Irving may play exactly one exhibition game this season.

On Nov. 5, NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams told Nets Daily he had no intention of cutting professional sports any slack, “The NBA says it’s the rule in New York City and they’re simply obeying what New York City has ruled, and New York City is not going to change their rule.”

While Irving has been lambasted in both sport and non-sport media alike for refusing to take a knee to vaccine mandates, he did receive some hard-hitting support on Oct. 26 when boxing legend Floyd Mayweather published a video on Twitter in support of the baller.

Mayweather detracted from the vaccine acceptance establishment narrative in a blunt fashion, “America is the land of the free. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, supposedly, freedom to choose.”

“I respect you for having some integrity and being your own man. A free mind makes his own choices. An enslaved mind follows the crowd. Stand for something, or fall for anything.”

“One man can lead a revolution to stand up and fight for what’s right. One choice, one word, one action can change the world. It’s crazy how people hate you for being a leader. I hope your actions encourage many others to stand up and say enough is enough.”