Missing a Shot: NBA players not getting the COVID-19 vaccine are irresponsible

Maren VanOsdol '22, Staff Writer

Courtesy of PxHere

In terms of whether the government has the ability to enforce COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, courts can debate that for months if not years. Conversely, if a private company decides that all employees must be vaccinated, then employees of that company have no choice but to follow those rules, or face consequences set for those who refuse. This could include anything from a pay cut to being fired. This battle has been playing out mostly privately within most companies enacting such rules, it’s been a very public matter among professional athletes.
All the major sports leagues have athletes of some prominence taking stands against being vaccinated but the NBA stands most prominent due to its widespread popularity and high profile stars that are holding out against the vaccine. Plus, the NBA season is just now getting underway. Lines have been drawn and neither side is backing down.
According to ESPN, The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to a reduction in pay of 1/91.6 of a player’s salary for each game an unvaccinated player misses because of local COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Kyrie Irving, player for the Brooklyn Nets, has refused to get vaccinated resulting in around $380,000 per game, according to ESPN. Yes per game not per year.
A younger, less prominent NBA player refusing the vaccine is Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, his average pay per game is “only” $212,195 but because he plays in Florida, where there is not a vaccine mandate, he won’t miss half the games like Kyrie Irving. Regardless, his refusal to be vaccinated is a distraction to the team and while his teammates are being outwardly supportive, no doubt many just wish he’d get the vaccine.
I don’t begrudge the gaudy paychecks many professional athletes are earning, good for them. But because of these vast sums it’s much easier to take a “principled” stand against taking the vaccine. Would they be so principled if they were a typical American worker making maybe $50,000 per year and refusing the vaccine meant not being able to pay your mortgage?
Even if you’re willing to give up half of your salary because you refuse a free vaccine that has been proven time and time again to be safe and effective is not only damaging to yourself but to your team and is overall extremely selfish. In team sports like basketball I don’t understand how you can make the conscious decision to just leave a massive hole in your team like that, or at the very least be a distraction that is taking away from the main goal of winning games.
Let’s not forget that COVID-19 has been shown to not discriminate by age or health. Of course older people or those that are immunocompromised could be seriously harmed if they contract COVID-19, but there have been many examples of younger, healthy people suffering greatly from it or even dying. For these athletes to potentially throw away their career by refusing to get a vaccine that can prevent a disease that is detrimental to your heart and lungs–two vital organs you need to be a good athlete–you can only blame the disease of misinformation that harms people every day.