NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Monday that the league will never “jump the line in any form whatsoever” when it comes to its players receiving COVID-19 vaccines and that the league plans to work with the government on public service campaigns to promote the importance of taking a vaccine.
“There’s no way we’d ever jump the line in any form whatsoever,” Silver said. “And, for the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine.
“We will very likely be part of some public service campaigns, we already talked to the CDC and other federal agencies about that, encouraging people to get vaccinated when it is appropriate. But up until then, we will just be watching and waiting.”
The NBA, which begins its 2020-21 season Tuesday with the Brooklyn Nets hosting the Golden State Warriors before the Los Angeles Lakers get their championship rings and then play the LA Clippers, is attempting to play this season outside of the safe confines of the bubble it successfully pulled off at the Walt Disney World Resort earlier this year. That, coupled with the steady increase in coronavirus cases around the country, has already led to more than 50 positive tests among players since the league began testing players again late last month.
When asked what the league would do if players refuse to take the vaccine, Silver said that he hopes that doesn’t become an issue.
“First of all, we don’t have the right, short of a negotiation with their union, to require them to get vaccines,” he said. “And I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I understand that some people don’t want to get vaccinated. I think part of it will be a public information campaign, and I’m also hoping that as more people get vaccinated it increases the public’s confidence in the vaccine and the testing protocols they’ve undergone thus far in order for the government to in essence verify it is safe.
“But, again, as time goes on, I think more people will recognize the importance of getting vaccinated and, again, not just for themselves, this is a conversation we’ve already begun with some members of the NBA community. But for young, healthy people, while it’s still an incredibly serious disease, they tend to do better than older people, or people with underlying conditions. So, for our players, the reason to get vaccinated may not be to protect themselves. It may be to protect their parents, their grandparents and other members of the community.”
— While Silver said that there was a possibility the NBA season could be suspended, like it was back in March, he said he was confident the protocols the league has put in place will prevent that from being an option the league has to take. “I think we wouldn’t be acting responsibly if I said it was full steam ahead no matter what,” Silver said. “Having said that, based on our experiences in the bubble, we have a fair bit of confidence in our approach.” He said the league office remains in daily contact with the NBPA about how its handling the virus.
— Silver said it was a “huge deal” that Giannis Antetokounmpo agreed to sign a five-year supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. “In essence, it means the collective bargaining agreement is working as we designed it,” he said.
— He also said the league continues to look into the allegations made in a lawsuit last week about the Clippers’ pursuit of Kawhi Leonard last summer. “All I can say there is everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” Silver said. “We’ll look into it. It’s our obligation … that if something comes to our attention, we look into it and see if anything is there.
“I have no reason to believe, based on what’s been alleged so far, that anything inappropriate took place, but that’s why we follow up on whatever leads come to the league office.”