The NBA announced that unvaccinated players who are forced to miss games because of COVID-19 restrictions in certain cities would not be paid. NBA players could lose out on millions of dollars of salary if they don't get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses," Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The potential loss of salary impacts players on three NBA teams: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Golden State Warriors. Those three teams all play in New York City and San Francisco; both cities enacted health orders prohibiting unvaccinated people from attending large indoor events. The Knicks have said its entire organization, including all players, are fully vaccinated.
Any unvaccinated player would be required to miss every home game until they get the vaccine. The vaccination mandates do not apply to players from visiting teams.
Golden State Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins requested a religious exemption from getting the coronavirus vaccine, but the NBA denied it last week.
When Wiggins was asked about his vaccination status during the Warriors' media day on Monday, he responded that it is a "private" matter.
"It's not uncomfortable. I'm confident in my beliefs, what I think is right, and what I think is wrong," Wiggins said. "I'm just gonna keep doing what I believe, whether it's one thing or another, just gonna keep doing it.
"Back is definitely against the wall, but I'm just going to keep fighting for what I believe," Wiggins added. "I'm going to keep fighting for what I believe is right. What's right to one person isn't right to the other and vice versa."
Asked about how his teammates are treating him, Wiggins replied, "It's all love."
Warriors superstar Stephen Curry commented on Wiggins' vaccination situation, and called it "difficult."
"At the end of the day, it is up to him. I think it's no secret to that point," Curry said. "We obviously hope that he has all the right information, the access to the right resources to ask all the questions he has on making that decision. We hope he's available. We hope he moves in the right direction. My opinion is, obviously I got [vaccinated] and am ready to be available and following the mandates and whatnot. But that's kind of where it is, and in the next coming weeks and how it all plays out is gonna be entirely up to him.
"We obviously hope he's available and with us and kind of go from there," the seven-time All-Star continued. "It's difficult. Everybody's in a difficult kind of position in that respect, and we've all made decisions that you feel like are right for you and your family and whatever the case is. This is no different, and whether you agree with him or not, you have to let it play out.
"It's not ideal, but I don't think anyone expected to be asked that question on something that's a voluntary decision, I guess, in a sense. We'll see. We hope not," Curry told reporters on Monday. "We hope we have a full team for the entire year and understand that on all accounts, what research says and things like that, that it's safe and we're all in the same boat."
Wiggins is set to earn over $31 million this season, but he could lose half of his salary if forced to miss home games.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving could also be forced to forfeit millions of dollars because of the vaccine mandate.
Irving was barred from attending the Brooklyn Nets' media day at the Barclays Center in person because of an executive order from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) that demands New York City resident-athletes that practice or play indoors show proof of at least one vaccine shot.
Irving spoke to reporters via Zoom, and wouldn't tell the media if he was vaccinated or if he intends on getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
"There's just a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie and I think I'd love to just keep that private and handle it the right way with my team and go forward together with a plan," said Irving, who is the vice president of the NBA Players Association. "So obviously I'm not able to be present there today, but that doesn't mean that I'm putting any limits on the future of me being able to join the team."
After reporters hounded Irving on his vaccination status, he said, "Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up. As of right now, please respect my privacy."
The former NBA champion and seven-time All-Star is to be paid a $35 million salary this season if he doesn't miss any games.
Irving's teammate, Kevin Durant, told reporters on Monday, "I expect it not to be an issue. It's on Kyrie and that's his personal decision. I expect us to have our whole team."
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James gave support to the unvaccinated players.
"I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature," James told reporters on Tuesday. "I know that I was very (skeptical) about it all. But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and my friends. And, you know, that's why I decided to do it."
Approximately 90% of NBA players are vaccinated, which leaves nearly 40 players who have yet to get the vaccine, league sources told ESPN.
The NBA is set to tip-off its regular season on Oct. 19. The Warriors' home opener is scheduled for Oct. 21, and the Nets' home opener is set for Oct. 24.
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