The NBA informed teams that recently issued laws in both New York City and San Francisco about vaccine requirements will be enforced -- including for players -- for members of the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption from taking part in them, according to a memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.
Both cities recently passed laws requiring some level of COVID-19 vaccination in various settings.
In New York, beginning on Sept. 13, anyone over the age of 12 won't be allowed to enter "certain covered premises" inside the city -- including Barclays Center, home of the Nets, Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks, as well as any other indoor gym or fitness setting -- without providing proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption for them not doing so.
In San Francisco, beginning Oct. 13, everyone over the age of 12 must show proof of being fully vaccinated before entering any large-scale event -- including NBA games at Chase Center -- as well as any indoor gyms or other fitness facilities, again unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption for them not doing so.
These laws apply only to players on the Knicks, Nets and Warriors and not to members of visiting teams coming to play those clubs. The reason for that is the laws in both New York City and San Francisco have exemptions for out-of-town teams coming to those cities to play games. Those exemptions, however, do not exist for the home teams in those cities.
In the memo, the NBA said that by Friday, all 30 NBA teams will have had to deliver the information to every player on their roster who isn't fully vaccinated, and that they'll have to inform the league office specifically which players are not yet fully vaccinated. It also states that, moving forward, if a team signs a player who isn't fully vaccinated, it must tell the player this information and inform the league that it has done so.
The league stated that similar vaccination requirements could come under consideration in other NBA markets, and it is possible that some of them -- unlike New York and San Francisco -- could also consider vaccine requirements for visiting teams. And the league said there could be other restrictions for unvaccinated players, pointing out that in Toronto, it expects unvaccinated players to be able to play in games -- as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test -- but that they won't interact with people outside of their team's travel party, nor will they be able to leave their hotel beyond going to practices or games.
The Athletic first reported the news of the memo's existence.
ESPN has previously reported that the league had informed teams in a memo last week that all personnel under team control who work within 15 feet of players or referees during games will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the upcoming season.
The directive specifically included coaches, front-office members and trainers, but stopped short of requiring all players to be vaccinated.
Leaguewide vaccination of players is subject to negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association.
The NBA has set an Oct. 1 deadline for team personnel to be fully vaccinated and left open the possibility that it could require a booster shot at a later date. The mandate applies to all personnel who will work near the court, including broadcasters, scoreboard operators, photographers and security personnel. Also required to be vaccinated are all back-of-house operations, including locker room attendants, medical staff, equipment managers and food and beverage handlers and providers.
NBA training camps open Sept. 28. The regular season begins Oct. 19.
In a separate memo sent out to teams Wednesday, and also obtained by ESPN, the league highlighted some preliminary arena operations protocols for the upcoming season. The memo states that the protocols are not yet finalized and that a set of final ones are expected to be circulated in mid-September.
As it stands, the preliminary protocols state that home and visiting team benches, along with the home, visiting and referee locker rooms, are expected to return to the 2019-20 seating arrangement. During the pandemic, teams provided cool-down chairs and non-bench staff seats were physically distanced from team benches.
Teams were also asked to potentially plan to assign non-fully vaccinated players to lockers that "are as distanced from other players as possible, and for the closest other players to be fully vaccinated (i.e., to avoid putting any non-full-vaccinated players in adjacent lockers)," the memo states. It is anticipated that all game-day personnel will be required to wear face masks at least at the outset of the season, the memo states.
Further, the memo states that, as the season approaches, it's currently anticipated that fans ages 2 and older who are seated in or with access to areas that are within 15 feet of players -- such as the court, locker rooms, the back of the bench or scorer's table, among others areas -- be required to either be fully vaccinated or return a negative test result prior to the game. Negative test results could come either from a PCR test taken two days before the game or an approved rapid test sampled on the day of the game, the memo states.
ESPN's Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.