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Unvaccinated NBA players in cities with local requirements (NYC, SF) will not play in home games

NBA coronavirus

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 18: Ushers check the vaccination card or a recent COVID-19 test of arriving fans at Staples Center on April 18, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. It has been over a year since fans have gathered at the Staples Center due to the coronavirus pandemic. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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The NBA cannot mandate players get vaccinated, although 90% of players are, according to players’ union executive director Michele Roberts.

That would still leave more than 40 players unvaccinated as we head into next season. If any of those players are in cities with requirements to be vaccinated for some indoor events — New York and San Francisco have those requirements — then unvaccinated players will not be able to enter the building to practice or play in games, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The NBA has been working on setting up its COVID protocols for this coming season, but this is not the NBA’s decision, rather it is the call of local governments. If, hypothetically, a Warriors/Nets/Knicks player does not play in home games due to not being vaccinated or having an exemption, it’s unclear how that might impact his paycheck (not docking a player’s pay would incentivize not getting vaccinated, players would get paid the same to sit out home games then go out on the road and have fun).

The NBA has been promoting vaccination and making it policy — as they should, it remains the best defense against the COVID Delta variant and is critical to keeping communities safe (along with wearing masks). NBA coaches, training staff, equipment managers, executives, and everyone else coming in contact with the players will need to be vaccinated next season. NBA referees also will need to be vaccinated.

Considering all that, the NBA will return to normal bench seating for the players this season, not the more spaced out seating of the last two seasons, which included a cool-down area for guys coming off the court.

Part of the motivation here is money — those expanded benches and cool-down areas took up fan seating areas near the court. Those are some of the most expensive seats in the building and bring in a lot of revenue for teams.

Fans in some of those seats — the courtside ones, at least — also will need to be vaccinated or have a recent negative test.

Whether fans will have to wear masks indoors and other precautions will be up to local jurisdictions, but the NBA is doing what it can to keep its players — and with that, its entertainment product — as safe from the pandemic as possible.