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Unvaccinated Knicks, Nets, Warriors players will have to sit out home games, NBA memo says

Per the New York mandate, as of Sept. 13 anyone over the age of 12 entering a public facility such as Madison Square Garden must present proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, including players. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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A memo sent Wednesday to NBA teams warned that unvaccinated players for the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors would not be able to play in home games this season at their respective arenas.

The NBA does not have a vaccine mandate for its players, but in a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the league pointed to requirements recently enacted in New York City and San Francisco that affect a broad spectrum of public activity. Those ordinances reportedly do not apply to out-of-town athletes, meaning that unvaccinated members of visiting teams could play at Barclays Center, Chase Center and Madison Square Garden.

It is unclear if any players for the Knicks, Nets and Warriors are not vaccinated. The head of the National Basketball Players Association, Michele Roberts, said in July that 90 percent of the league had been inoculated.

Per the New York mandate cited by the league Wednesday, as of Sept. 13 anyone over the age of 12 entering a public facility such as a sports arena or other “indoor gyms and fitness settings” in the city must present proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. That includes players, and in the case of the Nets it would also cover possible entrance to their practice facility in Brooklyn. The Knicks practice outside the city at a facility in Westchester County.

“We will continue to follow all government and league mandates,” the Knicks said in a statement provided via email.

Warriors players both practice and play at their arena complex in San Francisco. That city’s ordnance, which will take effect Oct. 13, requires full vaccination for anyone 12 and older to attend any indoor event with over 1,000 guests.

In both cities, exceptions could be made for those with an approved medical or religious exemption.

“Just buy into this because it’s going to work for all of us, is going to make us all safer,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in August, when the restrictions went into effect, although enforcement won’t begin until Sept. 13. Proof of vaccination is required for anyone entering an indoor restaurant, performance space or gym.

The NBA said its memo must be distributed by no later than Friday to unvaccinated players, and that those players needed to be identified to the league office. Going forward, if a team signs an unvaccinated player, it must inform that player of the municipal restrictions and confirm to the NBA it has done so.

The league also warned that Knicks, Nets or Warriors players who choose not to get vaccinated could be considered to be failing to provide services called for by their contracts. As such, those players could be subject to fines, suspensions and/or possible reductions in salary.

A league requirement for all of its players to be vaccinated would have to be agreed to by the NBPA. The league recently announced it reached a deal with the National Basketball Referees Association that requires all game officials to be vaccinated.

“This agreement was a win-win,” the NBRA said in a statement last week. “It will support the NBA’s objective of creating a safer on-court environment and continuity of play while protecting the health and well-being of the referees.”

As noted in Wednesday’s memo, the NBA this season will also require full vaccinations for any team or game-day personnel stationed within 15 feet of players or referees.

The 2021-22 NBA season starts Oct. 19. Training camps open Sept. 28.

The release of the NBA’s memo was first reported Wednesday by The Athletic.

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