Back in March, Andrew Wiggins said that he wouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine “unless I’m forced to.” Six months later, his thoughts on the matter haven’t changed.
There is “increasing concern” in the Warriors organization about the availability of their starting forward ahead of the 2021-22 season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons, who reports that Wiggins remains unvaccinated. Local guidelines in San Francisco, where the Chase Center is located, will prevent Golden State players from entering their home arena for games unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. (Visiting players will follow different protocols.)
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The NBA could grant Wiggins a religious exemption, but if that does happen, the city of San Francisco could override the league’s ruling.
“We are actively addressing the matter of requests for religious exemption from vaccinations across many industries and will work with our business and entertainment community on next steps,” the San Francisco Department of Public Health said in a statement to the Chronicle. “We will provide further clarification on this topic.”
Simmons noted that the Warriors connected Wiggins with an Oakland doctor to discuss his hesitancy in getting the vaccine, but after a conversation with the doctor, he was still “unmoved in his decision against vaccination.”
What does this mean for Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors?
While the NBA and National Basketball Players Association have made it clear that players won’t be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination, Wiggins could be compelled to get vaccinated based on potential financial losses. The 26-year-old is set to make more than $31 million this season, but he could lose significant money if he misses games and is unavailable for team activities at local facilities.
Any stretch without Wiggins would be a huge challenge for the Warriors. In 71 games last season, he averaged 18.6 points while shooting a career-high 47.7 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from 3-point range. He also improved defensively in his first full season with Golden State, finishing fourth among small forwards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric after landing 85th in that position group the previous year.
Wiggins will never be an MVP candidate like Stephen Curry or game-changing sharpshooter like Klay Thompson, but his status could alter the course of the Warriors’ 2021-22 campaign.
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Other NBA teams to monitor
Knicks and Nets players will also be required to be vaccinated because of government policies in New York. Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks told reporters this week that there are a few holdouts on the roster, but he is “confident” that everyone will be able to participate in training camp.
“I think we all understand what’s at stake,” Marks said. “We’ve had very candid conversations. Those are individual decisions. … It’s obviously out of our control. We are supporting getting the vaccination and putting out a healthy squad. And so at this point, I think we’re ready to go into the season. We don’t see these, whether it’s a city-wide mandate or whether it’s the league mandate to follow, being any sort of hindrance to us putting out a team.”
NBA training camps are set to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 28.