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Report: Unvaccinated NBA Players Need Exemptions to Play in Certain Home Markets

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 20: A detailed view of the NBA logo prior to the game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 20, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Celtics 117-109. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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NBA players in home markets that require vaccinations to enter arenas or practice facilities will need religious or medical exemptions to play if they are unvaccinated, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.  

As of now, those markets include New York City (Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks) and San Francisco (Golden State Warriors). Unvaccinated visiting players will not need an exemption to play. 

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

This follows local governmental policies, meaning unvaccinated players on the Nets, Knicks and Warriors are not allowed to play in home games. Visiting players are exempt from the vaccination requirements in NYC and SF. <a href="https://t.co/fPePW722Og">https://t.co/fPePW722Og</a>

It may not be much of an issue, with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts telling Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports in July that 90 percent of players were vaccinated (it's unclear if that number is for partially or fully vaccinated players). 

Additionally, all team staff that interacts with players and referees will be required to be vaccinated (though referees may also be exempted for valid religious or health reasons):

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

The following NBA personnel must be fully vaccinated in order to conduct in-person interactions with players and refs: Coaching staff, medical/performance staff, equipment, front office, player development, team/arena security, PR, social media, scorer's table, attendants. <a href="https://t.co/E2EWbrTBkG">https://t.co/E2EWbrTBkG</a>

NBA Communications @NBAPR

The following was released by the NBA. <a href="https://t.co/khXtZ5QVRo">pic.twitter.com/khXtZ5QVRo</a>

The NBA cannot make such requirements for the players, since such decisions would have to come from the NBPA. Local jurisdictions like San Francisco and New York can enforce such rules, however, which could put unvaccinated players in those locales in an uncomfortable situation if they are opposed to the vaccine without a valid medical or religious reason. 

The NBA will additionally require any fans sitting within 15 feet of the court to either be vaccinated or be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, per Charania:

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Fans within 15 feet of the court must be fully vaccinated or return a negative coronavirus test prior to the game. <a href="https://t.co/B9Q38xqWNn">https://t.co/B9Q38xqWNn</a>

The coronavirus pandemic first shut down most major leagues in 2020. When leagues resumed, some games had no fans.

The NBA expects to have full-capacity crowds for the 2021-22 season.