NBA won’t pay some unvaccinated players who miss games – tactic might work

By on September 30, 2021 0

Kyrie Irving # 11 of the Brooklyn Nets goes to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 10, 2021 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Nathaniel S. Butler | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

The National Basketball Association wants to fully embrace its upcoming 75th anniversary, but internal issues with Covid policies and vaccinations continue to overshadow this milestone.

The NBA’s Covid issues returned to national prominence when it announced that unvaccinated players in New York and San Francisco would not be paid if they miss games.

The cities, not the league, have issued a mandate requiring that eligible people be vaccinated to access public places, including sports arenas. NBA teams opened training camps this week and most of the talk centered around unvaccinated players.

“There is a lot of ignorance on the part of the players who will not get vaccinated,” former NBA player-turned-varsity player Len Elmore said. “The NBA is showing strength and has to support mandates for the greater good because that’s really what we’re talking about here.”

How the NBA got here

Like most vaccine advocates, including NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elmore said science supports the requirement for vaccinations. Now a professor for Columbia University’s Sports Management Program, Elmore noted that the black community remains at high risk for contracting Covid, adding that NBA players should recognize the power they wield through positive messages.

“We have to protect our communities, and in a league that’s 80 percent Black, these guys have to understand that,” Elmore said. “The impact of your decision goes far beyond your personal interest,” he added.

The NFL used a similar tactic when it said it planned to end its 2021 season on time. The NFL said in July it would fine losing players and teams if unvaccinated individuals caused outbreaks that resulted in postponements. The NFL has also imposed fines on players who violate mask guidelines at team training sites.

Sports leagues are taking a tough stance on vaccines, in part because media partners lost money on postponed games during the 2020 season. Networks like CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, were expected to provide product manufacturing to marketers who haven’t received audience impressions for prime-time games that have been moved due to the Covid outbreaks.

The NBA agreed to mandate vaccines with its referees last August to avoid disruption for the coming season. The Athletic said in July that 90% of NBA players are vaccinated. But, the league has not issued a warrant for the players because it cannot find common ground with its players union.

In Brooklyn and San Francisco, where the warrants are in place, players Kyrie Irving (Nets) and Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors) are two prominent faces of the NBA who remain unvaccinated. Wiggins attempted to use religious reasons to excuse his status, which the league office has denied. And Irving spoke on the Nets’ media day away from the team, which shed more light on his vaccine status. Both players have played down questions around the vaccine and asked for confidentiality during recent media events.

Leagues often have to grapple with player salaries to gain attention. It’s a financial loss that players will never recover.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said players who miss games due to their vaccination status in the next season will lose their pay. That means if Irving chooses to play at home, he will be missing about $ 425,000 per game. Irving, 29, is expected to earn $ 34.9 million this season. Wiggins will bring in around $ 31 million.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attends an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of the NBA Playoff Round 1 at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 19, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Ashley Landis | Getty Images

Protect the image of the NBA

The penalties will only help the league if other NBA cities decide to issue vaccination warrants. Elmore praised the NBA’s stance on promoting vaccinations, noting that “a player’s decision goes way beyond your personal best interests.”

“I think they’re smart,” added Tony Ponturo, director of sports marketing, of the NBA’s threat to withhold payments. “People always catch Covid – it’s not like we’ve escaped it. And as a marketer, I would also respect someone who doesn’t do the easy thing, but does the right thing.”

The NBA will revert to a standard 82-game format next month, limiting possibilities for postponements due to Covid. The NBA will also lose its flexibility to move games to different venues as other sports leagues and entertainment properties return to arenas where teams play.

Ponturo, the former vice president of global sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch, said sponsors should be concerned as they will lose impressions of the rescheduled games, which could cost them millions.

“Sponsors not only underwrite the broadcast rights, but also the signage and trademarks of the local team and other forms of sponsorship that they do with leagues and athletes,” he said. . “All of a sudden, if you have a generalized Covid situation and you lose games, there is going to be a pro-rated situation. “

Ponturo said the NBA’s image is threatened if it finds excuses for unvaccinated players. He said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is “sensitive to the idea that the NBA has an exception” and wants to avoid “stepping on government laws.”

There is one puzzling exception, however. Visiting players may be allowed to play in mandated cities even if they are not vaccinated. So while Wiggins and Irving can’t play at home, they could play on the road. Elmore said the exception is unfair and questioned its legitimacy.

“I suspect that anyone who is not vaccinated cannot enter the arena,” Elmore said. “How is it in these towns that visitors can enter? How do they enter the arena? I’m still trying to figure out how guys are allowed to play if the jurisdiction requires you to show your vaccine.”

Ponturo pointed to a recent Broadway outbreak that led to a canceled show even though the performers were vaccinated. He said the NBA wanted to avoid a similar situation with unvaccinated players. Since the pandemic, the NBA has released protocols designed to help prevent outbreaks, including mask warrants.

But will the NBA really follow its guidelines and impose fines like the NFL does? Or is it just creating a fear tactic? Bass did not respond to a CNBC request Wednesday night for further comment.

Patrick Rishe, director of the University of Washington’s sports affairs program, said the NBA’s public stance could have an impact on small businesses. It sounds like the NBA’s decision to put the game on hold when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“I have to believe there will be influence,” Rishe said. “If the NBA takes this position, then there will likely be organizations and sites that could copy.”

Rishe used NBA superstar LeBron James as an example. The Los Angeles Lakers forward told reporters on Tuesday he was vaccinated, despite early skepticism. “I felt like it was best suited not only for me, but also for my family and friends,” James said via The Associated Press.

Rishe said: “Who knows how many people it’s going to inspire to say, ‘You know what, if he does it, I can do it.’ If you follow his story, he’s a guy who wants to do good socially, and that can be a form of that. “

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