How sports are dealing with vaccinated and unvaccinated players

Ever since COVID-19 struck Earth, the world has been unbalanced. The sports world took a major hit at the start of COVID, as their games had to be cancelled, stopping the flow of their revenue. Later on in the year, different sports found new ways to restart their operations. The NBA and NHL created a bubble and the NFL restricted fans from attending games. As COVID conditions improved, the sports world became normalizing slowly but shortly. However, there’s still a long way to go.

The introduction of vaccines created a big jump in restoring sports to the way they were; however, many problems were created at the same time. Last year, players were benched and quarantined for two weeks if they came back positive in a PCR exam. Once the two weeks had passed, they would not be able to join the team until two consecutive negative exams were received. This year, with the introduction of vaccines, players are given the choice to get vaccinated, but the NFL is not requiring the players or coaches to be vaccinated. Still, there is an upside to receiving the vaccine. If players choose to receive the vaccine then they have to deal with COVID protocols but only if they come back positive. Unvaccinated players, on the other hand, have to go through lengthy COVID protocols even if they do not test positive. As a result, the difference between a vaccinated player and an unvaccinated player is that those that are vaccinated have no need to be worried about being a “high-risk” close contact at any point. Moreover, these players can participate in more activities than those who are unvaccinated. Due to these restrictions, 93% of all NFL players, coaches, and staff are vaccinated.

The NBA has an extremely similar standpoint on vaccinations.The NBA does not require players or staff to be vaccinated, but there are rules in place to keep players and coaches safe. Those who are vaccinated are not allowed to eat in the same room as unvaccinated players, and their lockers have to be located far away from the lockers of unvaccinated players. Unvaccinated players and staff must be masked and remain at least 6 feet apart from all other people in team meetings. Thus, the vaccinated population in the NBA has a plethora of advantages over the unvaccinated players and staff. Unvaccinated players and staff must be tested on all practice, travel, team activity and game days. However, fully vaccinated players will not be subject to testing (with very limited exceptions). 

Unlike the NBA and NFL, the MLB took a different approach to vaccinations. Although the MLB will not require players to be vaccinated, they are requiring non-playing personnel— manager, coaches, athletic trainers, etc.— to be fully vaccinated in order to gain field access during the postseason (playoffs). The only loophole to this rule is that unvaccinated staff members can retain access to these restricted areas if they receive one dose of the Moderna vaccine prior to October fourth (they must also schedule an appointment for their second dose). 

I asked a student in the class of 2023, Samuel Attias, his opinion regarding leagues not requiring players to be vaccinated, and he said, “I think that the league should be requiring players to get vaccinated. If they do not get their vaccinations, then they are putting staff, other players, and fans at risk to contract the virus which will once again result in the downfall of the sports.” Adam Sananes, class of 2023, offered another opinion. He said, “The NFL, NBA, and MLB are right to not require players to vaccinate. Vaccinations are still not proven to be effective and safe therefore leagues should not risk these players’ lives and require them to take something that might not be safe.”

All the major leagues are doing what they can to keep their players safe and continue what will be a great year of sports.




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