NBA announces it will withhold pay of unvaccinated players

The NBA announced on Wednesday that it will withhold pay for unvaccinated players who miss games this season.

“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.

The withholding of pay was one of a number of COVID-19 safety protocols the league unveiled Thursday morning ahead of its season, which is set to tip off on Oct. 19.

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While the protocols did not include a vaccine mandate, players who have not yet received the vaccine will not be permitted to eat among inoculated teammates, and their lockers will be located far away from others, according to The Associated Press, which obtained a memo from the league.

Unvaccinated players will also be required to wear a mask and abide by social distancing guidelines during team meetings.

The memo also includes guidelines for lodging during games: when in their home city, unvaccinated players will be required to remain at their homes, and on the road, they must stay in their hotel rooms, away from businesses or large indoor gatherings.

Unvaccinated players will also be tested frequently during practices or various team events.

Vaccinated players will also still be required to submit weekly COVID-19 tests.

The new protocols come as an internal battle is brewing within the league over coronavirus vaccines. The NBA considered enforcing a vaccine mandate for the upcoming season, but that idea was blocked after the National Basketball Players Association, which would need to agree to such an action, said the policy is a “non-starter.”

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Roughly 90 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated, but a number of the league’s top players have declined to get their shots, including Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, who applied for a religious exemption which was ultimately denied by the league.

That decision could be particularly problematic — and now costly — for players like Wiggins, who play home games in cities that require vaccines at large indoor events.