Players Won’t Be Paid For Games Missed Due To Local Vaccine Mandates

The NBA confirmed today that players who miss games due to governmental vaccine mandates in certain municipalities won’t be paid for those games, as Shams Charania of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement.

This is especially relevant for players based in New York and San Francisco, the two NBA cities that have implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates for indoor venues. Players for the Nets, Knicks, and Warriors who don’t receive the vaccine – and don’t receive an exemption – won’t be permitted to play in home games in those cities. Based on how the executive orders were written, the same restriction doesn’t apply to unvaccinated players on visiting teams.

Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, who are both reportedly unvaccinated, are among the most notable players affected by these local mandates. Irving is owed nearly $35MM this season, while Wiggins has a $31MM+ salary, so missing out on game checks for 41 games would result in significant financial losses.

As ESPN’s Tim Bontemps explains, New York’s executive order permits individuals who have received one vaccination shot to enter indoor venues, so Irving and any other unvaccinated Nets would become available virtually immediately if they opt to receive the vaccine. The Knicks have said their roster is fully vaccinated.

San Francisco’s executive order, which requires individuals to be fully vaccinated in order to enter indoor venues, goes into effect on October 13. That means Wiggins is still permitted to practice and play with the team for now, but wouldn’t be by the time the regular season gets underway if he hasn’t been fully vaccinated.

It remains unclear exactly what percentage of a player’s salary he’d lose if he misses a game due to not complying with a vaccine mandate. While teams play an 82-game schedule, the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement docks a player 1/145th of his salary per game when he’s suspended, or 1/110th if the suspension covers at least 20 games. However, there was a stricter per-game penalty in place last season for players who were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocol violations.

The amount of the per-game fine is still being discussed, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links), who notes that we’ll also need clarity on whether the fines are coming from the league or the teams — if it’s the league issuing the penalty, it would create tax savings for the Nets and the Warriors. A team-issued fine would not.

Here’s more on the COVID-19 and vaccination situations around the NBA:

  • There’s growing tension between staffers around the NBA – who face vaccine mandates from the league – and unvaccinated players, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Some vaccinated staffers are concerned about the health risks of being exposed to unvaccinated players, while others are upset that players aren’t subject to the same mandates as coaches, referees, and other personnel. Mike Bass said in a statement his week that the NBA has proposed vaccine mandates to the NBPA, but the players’ union has “rejected any vaccination requirement.”
  • NBPA executive director Michele Roberts put out a statement on Tuesday confirming that over 90% of the NBA’s players are vaccinated (Twitter link via Mark Medina of USA Today). In Roberts’ view, there should be more focus on that vaccination rate – which is far higher than the national average – rather than the league’s unvaccinated players or lack of a vaccine mandate for players.
  • The NBA and NBPA are close to finalizing the COVID-19 protocols for the 2021/22 season, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, who reports that the league sent out a tentative version of those protocols to teams on Tuesday. As previously outlined, unvaccinated players will face far stricter guidelines.
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