WNBA applauded for being vaccinated while NBA faces pushback from players

The WNBA currently has 99% of its league vaccinated without a mandate in place forcing the players to do so.

Aside from gender and pay, there’s currently a huge difference between the WNBA and NBA leagues: vaccination pushback against the coronavirus vaccine.

The New York Times reports that more than 90 percent of N.B.A. players have been vaccinated, and all referees and key team personnel who do not have exemptions will also be vaccinated before the season’s start this year. But several notable players in the NBA have expressed skepticism about the vaccine and refuse to disclose their vaccination status.

But per a report from Sports Illustrated, the WNBA became the first league in U.S. sports to reach the 99% vaccine milestone. The report notes that the success was due to a player-led procedure and not an official mandate. 

WNBA NBA thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

Once vaccination rollouts for Spring 2021 were announced, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert had a conversation with Terri Jackson, executive director of the player’s union. The discussion revolved around how they’d educate the players on the importance of the vaccination in an effort to get the league up and running to some sense of normalcy.

“What I said to Cathy was, ‘You’ve got to let me do this,’ ” Jackson told SI. “We, PA staff, we knew we had to do this. We knew that it had to come purely from the players association, because we are the players, we report to them, and they trust us, period, the end.”

The plan to do so involved Jackson engaging in one-on-one outreach to players to talk about their concerns combined with working with health care professionals on Zoom with the goal of creating an open and no-judgment dialogue. By June, the league had reached the 99% vaccination rate.

Kyrie Irving thegrio.com
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets calls a play during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Barclays Center on January 03, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Wizards won 123-122. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

On the contrary, NBA superstars have publicly hinted to not trusting in the vaccine. Nets star guard Kyrie Irving has particularly been evasive about his vaccination status. Due to the Nets’ playing power and the prediction that they’ll be a championship contender this season, their team is just one of three that the league has mandated that players must be vaccinated in order to play in their home arena.

But Irving isn’t budging. 

“I would like to keep all that private,” Irving he recently told reporters. “Please just respect my privacy. All the questions leading into what’s happening, just please. Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up.”

Irving then reportedly did not attend the Nets media day on Monday, Sept. 27 due to the league’s health protocols. A Rolling Stone magazine report notes that Irving’s aunt Tyki Irving was quoted as saying her nephew is not vaccinated but that it’s “not religious-based, it’s moral-based.” 

Currently, the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden are requiring all employees and arena guests ages 12 and up without a religious or medical exemption to show proof of having a vaccination dose, minimally one dose. The order is in place to comply with a mandate from Mayor Bill de Blasio regarding sports arenas.

Chase Center in San Francisco where the Golden State Warriors play has a similar mandate in place. This means that players from the Knicks, Nets and Golden State cannot play in their teams’ home games without being vaccinated. Players at the Chase Center must be fully vaccinated. If any players miss games due to not being vaccinated, The N.B.A. has said that players do not have to be paid for missed work.

Golden State guard Andrew Wiggins recently tried to forgo vaccination, citing religious reasons, but was denied.

Meanwhile, Twitter users are praising the WNBA for their vaccination success. Check out some of the commentaries below:

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