As the NBA braces for another season with the threat of COVID-19 lurking, the league is taking steps to minimize outbreaks around the league. In a statement announcing its latest measures, the league said Saturday all NBA referees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the 2021-22 season.
Per the league's statement:
The NBA announced today that it has reached an agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association requiring vaccinations for all referees working NBA games during the 2021-22 season.
The agreement specifies that all referees must be fully vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption. The referees have also agreed to take any recommended boosters. Any referee who does not get vaccinated and is not exempt will be ineligible to work games.
The National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) voted on the deal prior to the announcement, and were in agreement that it was the right decision.
"This agreement is a win-win," the NBRA said in a statement. "It supports the NBA's objective of creating a safer on-court environment & continuity of play while protecting the health & wellbeing of the officials; a clear example of when labor and management work together for the common good of collective business."
The announcement comes after it was reported earlier in the week that the league would also be requiring any team, arena and personnel who regularly interact with players and referees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. That includes coaches, front-office members, medical and equipment staff, player development, team and arena security, social media team, PR employees and those who work the scorer's table. It also includes any personnel who will work near the court, like broadcasters and photographers. Back-of-house team and arena operations will also be required to be vaccinated, like locker room attendants, and those who provide food and drinks. The deadline for team personnel to be fully vaccinated is Oct. 1, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps.
Players are not required to get vaccinated, but last season the league and the NBPA agreed that certain COVID-19 restrictions would be relaxed if a certain vaccination threshold was met on a team-by-team basis. Some players across the league advocated for people to get vaccinated, while also sharing pictures of getting vaccinated themselves.
The league is hoping that it won't run into as many postponed games as it did a season ago if a large portion of the league is vaccinated. The 2021-22 regular season starts on Oct. 19, with training camps set to begin in late September.