All NBA team personnel who will be near players and referees must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus this season, the league told its clubs in a memo on Friday.
It essentially covers anyone who will travel with teams; be around the bench areas; have access to home, visiting and referee locker rooms; and those working at the scorer’s table. The league also said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, that the policy may be updated when federal agencies release “expected guidance related to booster shots.”
Team personnel will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1; game-day personnel by the time of a team’s first home preseason game, which means early October.
Among the groups of personnel required to have vaccinations are coaches, medical and performance staff, equipment staff, front office members, team and arena security, media relations, social media producers, facility operations workers, and more.
The NBA said exemptions will be made in the cases of unionized workers who cannot be forced to be vaccinated, and for those with religious or documented medical reasons.
Those not fully vaccinated, the NBA said, “will be prohibited from having in-person interaction with, or being within 15 feet of, any player or referee.” They would also not be permitted to travel with teams and would have to wear face masks at all times inside team facilities.
Training camps for all 30 NBA clubs begin in late September, with preseason games in early October and the start of regular-season play Oct. 19.
Also Friday, ESPN reported non-playing, full-time employees of both the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals must be vaccinated for COVID-19, making them the first two Major League Baseball teams to institute compulsory vaccination.
Houston instituted the policy first, and also included the three minor league teams it owns. Washington announced its policy on Aug. 12, according to a statement by the team to ESPN, with Thursday the deadline to either “show proof of vaccination or offer a medical or religious exemption.” Those who fail to do so will be fired.
“As a company, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep one another safe and felt that mandating vaccines was the absolute right thing to do for our employees and our community,” the team said.
Both teams have dealt with significant COVID-19 outbreaks the last two seasons, with star players Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez among those to lose time due either to positive tests or close contact.
Though they are the first baseball teams to do so, multiple NHL and NFL franchises have made similar decisions, as has the MLB commissioner’s office. Mandates do not apply to players, who are covered by their respective unions, and would thus need to be agreed to through collective bargaining.
The NFL said Thursday attempts to mandate vaccines for its players were rebuffed, with a union official saying the NFLPA didn’t believe a mandate “was the best approach.”
Also, the US Open tennis tournament will require proof of vaccination to enter Arthur Ashe Stadium, as mandated by the New York City mayor’s office.