NBA Adds to Vaccination Policy

Third season in pandemic has league making changes.


Since the start of the worldwide pandemic known as Covid-19, two NBA champions have been crowned. Last year, it was the Los Angeles Lakers that took home the Larry O’Brien trophy from the NBA bubble. Just over a month ago, it was the Milwaukee Bucks celebrating their first championship in 50 years. As the third NBA season in this pandemic approaches, vaccination status among players and staff is a hot topic.

Vaccine Uncertainty

With vaccines only being made available at the beginning of this year, the long lasting effects are still unknown. This has led to many being uncomfortable with becoming vaccinated. The US Food & Drug Administration, also known as the FDA, were not quick to approve the vaccines either. Just last week, 6+ months after initial release, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine. This comes after millions had already been dosed. The backing of the FDA makes getting vaccinated a bit more settling for some.

The Delta Variant

This summer saw normalcy start to occur around the world, with sold out stadiums for the NBA Finals and music festivals like Lollapalooza happening, we thought the end of Covid-19 was near. That was until the Delta Variant started to show up. A new strand of the virus that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says is more infectious and spreadable than other strands, even in those vaccinated. Since the rise of this new variant, Coronavirus cases have spiked. As the NBA season approaches, the Delta Variant looms.

New NBA Vaccine Policy

The NBA announced yesterday that NBA referees are required to be vaccinated in order to officiate during the 2021-2022 season. This comes after the NBA had already asserted that coaches, front-office executives and anyone else who interact with players must be vaccinated. However, the players themselves have not been mandated to be vaccinated.

Player Vaccination Woes

Other leagues have made efforts for players to be vaccinated in order to play in this upcoming season. This was met with instant backlash. The NFL responded by just instating unvaccinated player policies. Some players were vocal about their anti-vaccination views, such as Cole Beasley. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver threatened to retire upon a player vaccination mandate. Fear of the response to an NBA player vaccine mandate is what has kept officials from enforcing it.

The Show Must Go On

In 36 days, players will take the court for the tipoff of the 75th season in NBA history. This will happen regardless of players’ vaccination status. The Covid-19 protocol in place will try to produce a season with full stadiums and limited outbreaks. The question of whether or not to require players to be vaccinated will continue to linger. Uncertainty surrounding Delta Variant will persist. For now, let’s just enjoy some basketball.

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College student at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Public Relations. Milwaukee Bucks contributor.

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