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Portland Trail Blazers Live Up to Their Name, Lead NBA With a 100% Team Vaccination Rate

Portland Trail Blazers Live Up to Their Name, Lead NBA With a 100% Team Vaccination Rate

Throughout the NBA, some star players are spouting off misinformation echoing the Trump administration’s attempts to downplay the virus and cast doubt on the vaccinations that were only available after Joe Biden took office.

Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, and Andrew Wiggins have all made their anti-vaccination stances public, impacting their ability to play in cities with strict vaccine mandates. Irving and Wiggins, due to New York City and San Francisco mandates, will not be able to play home games if they aren’t vaccinated. Beal contracted COVID-19 in the past few months and thankfully recovered, but the experience only strengthened his resolve to remain unvaccinated, as Washington, D.C., has no such mandate in place.


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – APRIL 21: Damian Lillard #0 talks with CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Round One Game Three of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2019 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Trail Blazers defeated the Thunder 111-98. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The conundrum that teams’ employees face—risk COVID exposure or reconsider their employment options—is especially poignant given the salary discrepancies between typical staff members and the players. Multimillionaires with access to unparalleled medical treatment disregarding the risks that support staff face while ICUs around the country brush up against capacity is an awful look for the NBA. The 10% of NBA players who are choosing not to get the anti-COVID jab have been allowed to dictate league policy, reportedly rendering an outright vaccine mandate a nonstarter in ongoing policy negotiations between the NBA and the players’ union. This stands in stark contrast to the WNBA, which reached 99% vaccination largely via a push from the players’ union.

But elsewhere in the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers are quietly setting the standard for the league. Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey confirmed at the team’s annual media day on September 27th that the entire roster and basketball operations staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Among NBA teams, the Blazers have been at the forefront of COVID vaccination progress. In March, the Blazers announced that 13 of 15 players received shots from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Today’s confirmation of 100% vaccination closes the loop, confirming that players added to the roster this summer are also vaccinated.

They presented the opportunity, and I said, ‘Can I bring my family, too?” said Olympic gold medalist Damian Lillard at Monday’s press event. “And they said, ‘Yeah.’ And that was it… I’ve had people in my family actually die, and people actually lose their lives to it. And [vaccination] is a way for me to protect myself and the people that I love—I’m gonna do it.”

In addition to Olshey’s confirmation that the basketball operations staff is vaccinated, Blazers staffer Casey Holdahl suggested on Twitter that the team has required vaccination for all employees.


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