Andrew Wiggins has been one of the most durable players in the NBA over the course of his career, but the Golden State Warriors small forward could miss a significant chunk of the upcoming season for reasons very much in his control.
Wiggins has, to this point, refused to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, putting his status for the 2021-22 season in doubt.
Starting on Oct. 13, operators and hosts of indoor mega events in San Francisco will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to enter their facilities. This includes not just games at Chase Center, but team workouts, as well, and it applies to players.
Which brings us to Wiggins. According to a report from Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, Wiggins has held firm on his stance of remaining unvaccinated, and the Warriors are growing concerned that he will not be available for the start of the season. If Wiggins were to receive a one-dose vaccine, he would need to be vaccinated no later than Sept. 29 in order to not miss any time at Chase Center, and no later than Oct. 7 if he wishes to play in the Warriors home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.
But things aren’t looking good.
According to Simmons, the Warriors have been working with Wiggins to try and educate him on the safety of the vaccine and the severity of COVID-19.
The Warriors recently connected Wiggins with an Oakland doctor who understands issues surrounding vaccine hesitancy, sources said. The doctor explained the suffering and deaths she has witnessed in patients who contracted the coronavirus, sources said, but Wiggins remains unmoved in his decision against vaccination.
Not exactly encouraging.
If Wiggins is unable to play due to a lack of vaccine, it will cost him a significant amount of money. NBA paychecks are based on games, meaning that Wiggins is paid 1/82nd of his salary for every game — about $385,000, pre-tax. While players are paid for games that they can’t play in due to injury or other reasons, they do not receive payment for games that they simply do not show up to, and Wiggins’ absence would qualify as that. In other words, he’d be sacrificing half of his salary (assuming the law doesn’t change, and he doesn’t get vaccinated halfway through the season), but it would not be a fine. It would simply be a paycheck withheld due to not showing up for work. The Warriors could, however, presumably fine him for a lack of availability at practice and workouts.
It’s also worth noting that visiting players (such as Wiggins’ former teammate, Kent Bazemore, who has been open with his anti-vax stance) are not subject to the same rules. They are allowed to play, though they have to stay six feet away from the public at all times, provide a recent negative COVID-19 test, and wear a mask at all times when they’re not on the court. But Wiggins, as part of the host team, would need to be vaccinated.
According to Simmons, it is believed that Wiggins could receive a religious exemption from the NBA. However, Simmons notes that the city of San Francisco would have to issue their own religious exemption for Wiggins to enter the building unvaccinated, so the league’s ruling there might not mean much.
With so much research surrounding the vaccine, and full FDA approval, it’s a little shocking that a player would hurt his team and sacrifice eight figures just to avoid partaking in public health measures.
Hopefully that doesn’t end up being the case.
If Wiggins remains unvaccinated, it puts the Warriors in quite the pickle. They’re probably not keen on continuing to use a roster spot on a player who can only play in half of their games and practices, but it’s hard to imagine them being able to trade his contract without including some valuable assets like young players and future picks. Even with his strong season a year ago, Wiggins is viewed as having a negative-value contract around the league, so trading him would not be easy.
It is not known for sure that all of Wiggins’ Warriors teammates are vaccinated. However, since Wiggins is the only player who has been mentioned in these reports, it seems likely that he’s the only unvaccinated player on the team.