NBA players who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 won't be able to travel to Toronto to play in games against the Raptors beginning on Jan. 15, Canada's minister of public safety Marco Mendicino announced in November.
On Tuesday, the NBA informed all teams that if a player cannot show proof that he's fully vaccinated and misses a game in Toronto, he would be subject to a fine, suspension or some other penalty, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
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Unvaccinated professional and amateur athletes will no longer be able to travel to Canada as of January 15, minister of public safety Marco Mendicino said on Friday. Currently, NBA and NHL players who have yet to receive one of Canada's approved COVID-19 vaccines are able to enter the country under a national interest exemption. But Mendicino said that is changing due to the wide availability of vaccines.
"As of January 15th, there will no longer be an exemption in place for professional and amateur athletes," he said... Those who remain unvaccinated will soon be unable to play games in Toronto against the Raptors or in any of the seven Canadian NHL teams' home arenas.
It is unclear whether unvaccinated Canadian athletes who play for American teams would be able re-enter the country with their teams. However, beginning November 30, vaccination will be required for travel within and out of Canada.
Furthermore, any unvaccinated NBA player with temporary VISA status leaving the United States won't be allowed to re-enter the country, after playing in Canada for example, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Teams will have to reportedly file a list of all unvaccinated players to the league office by Friday.
Luckily, this change shouldn't be an issue for too many NBA players, as around 97 percent of the league's players are reportedly vaccinated, per Wojnarowski, with 60 percent of them having already received their booster shots. Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving is the most well-known player to refuse the vaccine, but he hasn't been playing in games for the Nets this season, so the change won't impact him anyway.
The NBA isn't enforcing any sort of a vaccine mandate for its players, but the league has strongly encouraged all players to get inoculated. Earlier this month, the league encouraged all players and coaches to get a booster shot in order to try to continue to curb any potential outbreaks. Several players from across the league's landscape have had to miss time due to COVID-19 this season, but no games have been postponed due to extreme team-wide outbreaks, which is an improvement over last season.