Kyrie Irving is not vaccinated, doesn’t want to discuss it, and could miss Brooklyn home games because New York has a vaccine mandate to enter public indoor spaces. The same is true of Andrew Wiggins in Golden State because San Francisco has a similar mandate (and the NBA would not grant him a religious exemption).
Now comes word the NBA will not pay players for games missed because a player has not complied with local vaccine mandates. Here’s the quote from NBA spokesman Michael Bass, sent to several media members.
“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses.”
This would not apply to out of market players visiting the city. For example, Bradley Beal is unvaccinated and has no plans to get the jab; when the Wizards play in Brooklyn or at the Chase Center in San Francisco, he will be exempted from the fine under the NBA’s plan.
For Irving ($34.9 million this season) and Wiggins ($31.6 million), that would mean more than $300,000 in lost pay for the game. It is not clear if the fine is a team fine of the player or a league fine of the player (if it is a league fine, it could decrease the luxury tax hit for those teams).
There has been some question from agents if the league is allowed to do this. The league does not have a vaccine mandate for players, the union has blocked it, calling it a “non-starter” in talks. Players would be docked under the “failure to perform” clause in the contract, but the player/agent’s argument is the player is ready to perform — and is doing so in other arenas around the league — it is a local ordinance that is preventing him. The player could challenge the NBA’s interpretation of the CBA and contract, and the issue would go to arbitration, something that would take six months at least, maybe a year to resolve.
Hitting a player in the paycheck is one of a number of steps the league is taking to change the calculus for unvaccinated players and get them to decide to get the shot. In addition to this paycheck issue, the league’s health and safety protocols say unvaccinated players can’t eat in the same room with vaccinated teammates, their lockers as far away as possible from vaccinated players, they have to wear a mask and at least six feet away from everyone else at team meetings, and on the road they have to stay on the hotel properties and can’t go out. Those restrictions are still part of talks between the league and teams, but the NBA sent out a memo outlining them.
All of that is getting some unvaccinated players to get the jab, but there will be holdouts. Now they know the price — the literal price — they will pay for not getting the shot.