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NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday said the NBA will not require anyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine, however he believes “most players” will ultimately choose to do so.
“We’re seeing this now, both in the actual numbers of people getting vaccinated in the United States and opinion polls, that people are becoming more willing to get vaccinated,” Silver said during his All-Star Weekend virtual news conference from Atlanta. “I think, as to those who have been hesitators, as tens of millions of people now in the United States have gotten the vaccine, that people are seeing, at least in the short-term, what the impact is, and they’re hearing about how incredibly effective these vaccines are.
“My hunch is that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated. They have to make personal decisions at the end of the day — and I take that very seriously, and I take concerns very seriously. But my sense is most [players] will, ultimately, decide it is in their interest to get vaccinated.”
Part of Silver’s logic behind why players will be interested in getting a vaccine is that it will make their lives far simpler. Currently, under the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, not only do players have to be tested as many as three times a day, but they also are subject to quarantine periods even if they don’t test positive themselves if they have been in “close contact” with someone who has.
That is what happened with All-Star Kevin Durant, for example, twice this season – including last month when he was initially held out of a game against the Toronto Raptors, only to be allowed to play midway through the first quarter and then be pulled again midway through the third, after an inconclusive test by a close contact became a positive one.
Under this scenario, if Durant had received a vaccine, he would no longer have to quarantine at all.
“In addition to the personal health benefits, to the family health benefits, the economic benefits to getting vaccinated, because of the protocols we have in place, they are incredibly burdensome on our players and on our teams,” Silver said. “But, for example, the CDC has already announced that if you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine as a close contact. As you know, many of our players have had to sit out not because they tested positive, but because they were required to quarantine because of a close contact.
“So, in addition, right now, as we operate under the so-called work quarantine protocol, where players are largely only going between their homes and the arena, once they get vaccinated they’ll be able to do more in their communities. And that’s something we’ve already begun talking to the Players Association about. So there will be some real advantages and benefits to getting vaccinated for the players.”
The NBA has had to postpone 31 games so far due to the league’s health and safety protocols, with several teams — including the Washington Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs — having to miss multiple games due to not having enough players available to play in a game.
Silver, however, said he believes it is “realistic” to complete the playoffs without mandatory vaccinations for players because he believes the league’s protocols have largely worked.
“I think it is realistic, even if we didn’t have required vaccinations because, of course, no one — none of the players — have been vaccinated now, and we’ve only had to postpone a relatively small percentage of games,” Silver said. “We know that for the most part, a testing protocol, together with mask wearing and all the other precautions we’re taking, largely works.
“The NCAA tournament is going to be played this year, and again, without vaccinations for their players. To me, we’ll make additional progress if players get vaccinated, but it certainly doesn’t require that they all get vaccinated.”
Silver didn’t answer, however, what will happen if there is a situation where an NBA team has to be shut down during the playoffs because of the virus — like the league has had to do on several occasions so far. Once the NCAA tournament begins, if a team has an outbreak that prevents it from playing, their opponent would advance to the next round via forfeit.