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Will NBA make coronavirus vaccine mandatory for players, staff?

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson break down their biggest takeaways from the preseason so far, from Zion Williamson and the Pelicans to LaMelo Ball's star potential.

Healthcare workers, some with tears of joy, were the first people to get the coronavirus vaccine this week. Not long after, the vice president got his shot in a televised appearance to help promote the vaccine’s safety. It’s all part of the vaccine rollout, which is ramping up across the nation and up and points to an end to the pandemic that has upended life around the globe.

However, not everyone in the nation trusts the vaccine or wants to get it — and that distrust is particularly high among Black Americans.

The NBA is banking on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — almost literally. The NBA is counting on enough people to get the vaccine so that by next October, when the 2021-22 season starts, the league can return to its normal schedule of full arenas and team travel. The NBA wants its players to receive the vaccine and is setting up an education program for players around that.

But will the league make getting the vaccine mandatory?

Probably not, according to the reporting of Mark Medina at the USA Today.

“We’ll address that when it comes as far as a union and players,” said Suns guard Chris Paul, the president of the NBPA. “But when it comes to all different types of vaccines, a lot of that stuff is personal.”

“I don’t know about mandatory,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. “The NBA will certainly research it thoroughly. I think coming off the success of Orlando and all that, I don’t think there is any reason to question the data that they come up with because they research everything very thoroughly. But personally, I’ll take the vaccine.”

The league and players’ union already had plans to discuss vaccine issues in the future (right now, healthy young people in their 20s and 30s, such as NBA players, are not eligible to receive the vaccine, and it will be the spring, maybe summer, before they will be). However, there would be pushback to making it mandatory. As a nation, we do not require people to get other vaccines — such as an annual flu shot — it is a personal decision.

However, there could be consequences for saying no. If an NBA player or staff member elects not to have the vaccine, they may be subject to continued and further restrictions on their activities at home and on the road. All of that will be part of the upcoming negotiations. Part of those talks also will be how the league will handle players who have already had the virus, so they have antibodies, and do not want the vaccine.

For players skeptical of vaccines in general, and who know the government’s history using black men to study a disease, whether or not to get the coronavirus is not a simple decision.

“I’m a guy that don’t really take any vaccines. I try to stay away from a lot of medicine,” Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “But I don’t really have an answer for that one right now. It’s a big thing going on with the news and obviously with the COVID situation. So I don’t want to say anything out of line. But for me personally, I’m a type of person that stays away from that kind of stuff.”

That’s why the league is setting up an education program for players and teams on the vaccine. In the end, the hope is players will see how financially important it is to the league — and, by extension, their paychecks — for the vaccine to be widely accepted and taken in America. But in the end, it likely will remain a personal choice.

In the short term, the NBA will go about its season and try to enforce protocols that will limit the spread and allow the games to take place, with or without fans.