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NBA’s Tentative Virus Protocols Released to Teams

Tentative health and safety protocols for the NBA were shared with its teams Tuesday, The Associated Press reported

The protocols detail that unvaccinated players will be tested far more often than vaccinated players and face other restrictions.

Among the rules for unvaccinated players:

  • They won’t be able to eat in the same room with vaccinated teammates or staff
  • Their lockers must be as far away from vaccinated teammates as possible
  • They must stay masked and at least six feet away from all other attendees in meetings.
  • Unvaccinated players will also be “required to remain at their residence when in their home market,” teams were told in the draft of the rules obtained by the AP. They will also need to stay on team hotel properties when on the road. In both cases, there are limited exceptions — such as going to buy groceries, taking children to school, etc.
  • They will not be allowed to visit “higher-risk settings,” the NBA said, such as restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment venues, and large indoor gatherings.

The league is working with the National Basketball Players Association to finalize the protocols, but some details were agreed upon weeks ago such as provisions where unvaccinated players will be tested on all practice, travel, team activity and game days. Vaccinated players will not be subject to testing, with limited exceptions.

Vaccinated players — the category that at least 90% of the league falls into — will largely be back to business as usual.

Unvaccinated players will be given rapid tests on days where teams are practicing, traveling, or having similar team events, plus will need lab-based tests on game days.

"A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with the Players Association," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Tuesday, the AP reported. "The NBA has made these proposals but the players’ union has rejected any vaccination requirement."

Later, the NBPA responded by celebrating the 90% vaccination rate and how it exceeds the national percentage. 

Players who are forced to miss games due to vaccination requirements in New York and San Francisco will not be paid for any games they miss, ESPN reported Wednesday

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

The difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated players will also govern the rules surrounding what happens when contact tracing flags a player as being possibly exposed to a person who is positive for COVID-19, the NBA told teams.

Those who are fully vaccinated will not be required in most cases to quarantine, though will need seven days of testing. Unvaccinated players flagged by contact tracing will need to quarantine for seven days.

The NBA and the players are still working on some final topics, all with the intention that this season — unlike last year — doesn’t see waves of game postponements or players missing extended periods of time because of the virus. Remaining topics include what would trigger needs for fully vaccinated players to be tested.

Some rules from last season will still apply, at least to begin this season: Everyone , no matter their vaccine status, must wear masks in almost all situations inside team facilities during travel and on the bench during games. The bench rule will not apply to head coaches, who are not required to mask during games. The AP reported that it was previously agreed that anyone in proximity to players — stat-crew staffs, team attendants, even NBA referees — must be vaccinated.

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