The NBA now finds itself in a position where games are getting postponed right and left because positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing are leaving rosters with an insufficient number of eligible players. Speaking on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley argued that NBA and NFL players should get “preferential treatment” to receive the vaccine because of the high taxes they pay:
— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) January 15, 2021
Kenny Smith, arguing that this was a matter of life and death, vigorously disagreed with Barkley.
Here’s where I stand on Barkley’s argument: I would be fine with the NBA and NFL using their considerable resources to obtain vaccines for their players, coaches, and other personnel after vulnerable seniors, people with co-morbidities, and frontline health and education workers who wish to receive the vaccine have done so. I would also be okay if there were situations, like we’ve seen in many states, where vaccines were about to go to waste and they receive them at the last minute.
There are only a few more weeks left for the NFL at this point, and they basically have to hope and pray that mega-stars like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes do not test positive or become a direct contact from here on out. Even if all remaining players got the vaccine today, they would still need to wait a few weeks for the second shot before they would be immunized. By then, we’re already at the end of the season.
The NBA’s current position is similar to the one they were in before the bubble. Adam Silver talked about not wanting to gobble up tests that were still sluggish in reaching the public, and he evaluated the right time to jump in and buy them up to safely finish the season. It would still be worse optics right now for the league to get vaccinated than the benefit of salvaging these regular season games would be. In a month or two, I think the vaccine distribution will be in a place, and it will no longer be an awful look for their players to receive it.