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NBA denies Andrew Wiggins request for religious exemption to COVID-19 vaccine

Vincent Goodwill joins Michael Holley and Michael Smith to break down the NBA COVID complications for players who may miss games due to local vaccine ordinances and explore what the teams' responsibilities should be.

It’s not that Andrew Wiggins has been benched — he’s not even allowed in the arena. Wiggins is unvaccinated and San Francisco has a vaccine mandate for large indoor gatherings (including anything at the Chase Center) — meaning the unvaccinated cannot even enter the building. Including players.

Wiggins had requested a religious exemption from being vaccinated, but the NBA denied his request. From the NBA’s press release:
“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’ request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events. Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfills the city’s vaccination requirements.”

Wiggins has been forced to do individual workouts rather than get in runs with the rest of the team because of his vaccination status.

The big unknown is if the Warriors can withhold game checks from Wiggins for being unvaccinated and unable to play in home games (the same goes for the Nets and Kyrie Irving). Wiggins (entering the fourth year of a five-year, $147.7 million max contract) makes a little more than $350,000 a game; the Warriors could try to withhold that pay for “failure to perform.” However, it’s unknown if that would hold up in arbitration. There is no league mandate requiring players to be vaccinated, Wiggins is healthy and will play in road games, the thing holding him back is a local piece of legislation that is not something he is legally required to do. This is an unprecedented situation; nobody is sure if teams can withhold that pay.

Wiggins has said he would not get the vaccine unless forced to. With the religious exemption off the table and the threat of a loss of pay, will that change Wiggins’ calculus and will he consider that enough to be “forced to” get the vaccine?

That is unknown. All we do know is Wiggins cannot use a religious exemption to avoid getting the jab.