Playing against the Toronto Raptors in 2021-22 could be a completely different experience for vaccinated players when compared to unvaccinated players, as governments at every level have imposed stricter regulations and rules on how freely players can move about and what activities they can perform.
While the NBA has reportedly reached a 96% vaccination rate, some noteworthy holdovers like Jonathan Isaac and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving have grabbed headlines in recent weeks. Vaccine mandates for indoor activities in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco put Irving at risk of missing over half of Brooklyn’s games.
While unvaccinated players can play their games in Toronto thanks to the National Interest Exemption, they will be restricted to their hotel or the arena. If they break these rules and do not listen to the mandates handed down by the government and the league, things could get very messy.
Shams Charania has reported that unvaccinated NBA players who break quarantine run the risk of getting charged with a criminal offense. According to Canada’s Quarantine Act, violations can include up to six months in prison or $750,000 in fines.
Playing against the Toronto Raptors became harder for the unvaccinated.
The Raptors themselves have taken steps to avoid being put in this situation, as they have crossed the 100% vaccination threshold following a recently administered second dose. By opening night, no Raptors players will worry about violating this mandate, making this situation easier for all parties involved.
On top of the potential legal penalties, an NBA spokesperson has already ruled that players will not receive a game check if the reason for their absence is related to violating a local COVID-19 regulation.
Players like Irving and Isaac could make it easier on themselves and their teammates by getting the shot, but now they have to make sure they abide by increased testing and restricted movement protocols, lest they face a potential criminal case north of the border. At least the Raptors have escaped these rules thanks to their perfect vaccination record.
While the Raptors gaining a competitive advantage off of this is the last thing one should think of when players are wantonly risking the health of both themselves and others by not taking the vaccine, one slip-up could have major repercussions for a Toronto opponent.
The league and the union did not mandate vaccinations, but local and federal governments seem to be doing everything they can to encourage players to get the jab. If some of the Raptors’ opponents choose not to inoculate themselves, they could get mired in some serious legal issues.