The National Basketball Players Association didn’t sign off on allowing teams to dock players 1/91.6th of their salaries for 2021/22 if they’re unable to play in a game due to a local vaccine mandate, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.
The NBA announced last week that unvaccinated players who are ineligible to play in games in New York and San Francisco wouldn’t be paid for the games they miss due to those cities’ local mandates. A follow-up report indicated that the league and the players’ union had agreed on the amount of the fine for such a violation.
However, Roberts tells Bondy that while the NBPA approved that per-game penalty (1/91.6th of a player’s salary) for certain health and safety protocol violations, the union doesn’t believe it should apply to players who miss games solely for being unvaccinated.
“They’ve been reporting that we’ve agreed that if a player who was not able to play because of his non-vaccination status, they could be docked (pay),” Roberts said. “We did not agree. The league’s position is that they can. We’ll see. If we get to that point, we’ll see.”
As Roberts explains, the NBPA’s position is that a player shouldn’t be punished for being unvaccinated, since the NBA has no vaccine mandate of its own for its players. The league’s stance, per Roberts, is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to assess those penalties without NBPA approval.
“It’s debatable. We’ll see,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but I’m going to say it’s a bridge we’ll cross, if and when we get there. Right now, we’ve agreed that a player breaks protocols, that he can be disciplined to include some taxing of his comp. But not being vaccinated — because it’s not mandatory — in and of itself should not lead to any discipline.”
As far as we know, the only NBA player who is in real danger of being docked salary for missing games due to his vaccination status is Nets guard Kyrie Irving. The local mandates in New York and San Francisco don’t apply to visiting players, and no other Nets, Knicks, or Warriors players have been reported as unvaccinated. An unvaccinated player in another market – such as Wizards guard Bradley Beal – should still be able to play in all 82 games.
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While Irving, Beal, and a handful of other unvaccinated players have been the subject of an outsized number of headlines since training camps began, Roberts reiterated that the vast majority of NBA players are fully vaccinated. She told Kavitha Davidson of The Athletic (Twitter link) that there’s now a 96% vaccination rate among NBA players, noting that vaccinated players have played a role in helping convince some of the holdouts.
“We’re doing better than companies who are mandatory vaccinations because we’re at 95-96%,” Roberts said to Bondy. “100% is still an aspiration.”