The NBA and its players union fought for months over vaccine mandates. In recent weeks, religion has come off the bench and made the drama worse.
The ongoing conflict centers on the league’s approach to vaccine resistance. The NBA wants to push players towards vaccination by forcing the unvaccinated to comply with stricter safety rules, but the union believes players concerned about COVID-19 shots deserve more respect.
For much of the summer and early fall, the players’ union had the upper hand. After being pushed back by stars like Kyrie Irving, the league has backed down from imposing a vaccine mandate and has responded to requests for proposed travel and testing rule changes.
“Unvaccinated players have forced the league to give in on almost all … demands”, Rolling stone reported last week.
However, the city-level immunization mandates in San Francisco and New York have shifted the balance of power slightly.
In these cities, the NBA can now reap the security benefits of mandates without irritating players by forcing one. The league also gets the power to decide which players get medical or religious exemptions.
The NBA “insists on national and local compliance, saying it is it and not the teams that will assess requests for medical and religious exemptions. The league also noted, in a September 1 note to teams … that under the player’s contract, a player who cannot comply with local laws can be fined or suspended. The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, early evidence suggests the NBA will take a close look at requests for religious exemptions. The league last week rejected such a request from the Golden State Warriors forward. Andrew Wiggins, which means he won’t be able to play at home this season unless he gets the shot.
Irving, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, is reportedly considering filing his own religious exemption request. In recent weeks, he has “started following and liking the Instagram posts of a conspiracy theorist who claims that ‘secret societies’ are planting vaccines in a plot to connect black people to a master computer for’ a plan of Satan, ”Rolling Stone reported.
Her aunt, Tyki Irving, told Rolling Stone that Kyrie’s concerns are not really based on faith.
“He’s going to try to figure out (the exemption process) as it goes, because it’s not based on religion, it’s on morals,” she said.
Many Americans, including some NBA players, have questioned why religion would ever lead someone to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, noting that leaders of various faith groups have spoken out in favor of obtaining your vaccines.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, who once played for Utah Jazz, told Rolling Stone that believers should celebrate the opportunity to protect their community.
“I’ve talked to a lot of religious – I’m like, ‘It saves lives, so what’s more important than that?’ Said Kanter, who is a Muslim.
More than half of American adults, including 58% of Protestants and White Catholics, 56% of Black Protestants and 67% of Hispanic Catholics, see vaccination as “a way of living the religious principle of loving my neighbors,” according to Institute for Research on Public Religion. Among believers, only white evangelicals showed high levels of resistance to the idea, according to the survey.
As the start of the NBA season quickly approaches, some people associated with the league are asking God to protect everyone.
“No shade for Kyrie. It’s his choice. I just pray that if anything happens, he will survive it,” a New York court employee told Rolling Stone.