The Dilemma between Professional and Collegiate Athletes: Vaccinate or Not Vaccinate

Sports organizations like the NBA, the New Mexico Activities Association, and the NCAA are implementing new rules about vaccination status, which has a direct effect on athletes who have chosen not to be vaccinated; What does this mean for New Mexico State University Athletics?

The dilemma between health and sports has been an on-going topic of discussion for the past year and a half. It is no secret there are people who are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Non-vaccinated athletes who participate on a professional, collegiate or amatuer level are now having to either get vaccinated, follow strict protocols or not participate at all.

The main two athletes who have been dominating sports news and media currently are Kyrie Irving and Aaron Rodgers.

Kyrie Irving vs. the NBA and Local Vaccination Mandates

The NBA is already two months into their season, and Irving is still not participating in any on-the-court or off-the-court activities for the Brooklyn Nets. The NBA has made it clear they are not requiring players to be vaccinated, but have incentivized players to get the COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to ESPN.

The NBA Players Association and the NBA did not come to an agreement for a vaccination requirement, however local vaccination mandates have made it a requirement for players to be vaccinated to participate in indoor competitions.

There are three U.S. cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City that are requiring a proof of vaccination. New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order that requires people to provide proof of vaccination before entering any indoor venue, according to Yahoo News.

This includes indoor activities, like professional sports games, which affects both the general population as well as professional sports athletes who reside and play for sports organizations in New York City.

Mike Bass, an NBA spokesperson, made it clear during a Sept 29 press conference that, “Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that they miss,” which has a direct correlation to the Irving dilemma.

Sean Marks, general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, made a statement on Oct 12 by saying, “Irving’s decision for not being vaccinated left him no choice but to send him away from the team until he is able to fully participate.”

Irving has made it clear that he will not be vaccinated, during an Oct 14 livestream on Instagram. He stated that he wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless.”

Not being vaccinated has resulted in Irving not participating in games in New York City. This can result in him potentially losing a portion of his salary, which was calculated at approximately $16 million.

Irving has still not made an appearance for the Brooklyn Nets this season.

The NFL Media’s Confusion About Aaron Rodgers Vaccination Status

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov 3 making him ineligible for participation in the Kansas City Chiefs game.

This has become a topic of discussion because Rodgers, during a media session on Aug 26 was asked whether or not he was vaccinated. His reply was that he was “immunized,” the term wasn’t initially questioned or contested by sports media at the time.

During an interview with The Pat McAfee Show on Nov 5, Rodgers stated that, “The NFL and the NFL Players Association denied his exemption of the COVID-19 vaccine shot.” Rodgers filed an appeal to the NFL to undergo homeopathic treatment instead of getting the shot.

Rodgers, from his perspective, explained in detail about how the rules established by the NFL for unvaccinated player has “taken the fun out of the game” and about the “coercion and collusion from the league office about the threats not to sign or retain unvaccinated players.” Homeopathic treatment in blatant terms means that “the body can cure itself,” according to WebMD.

Ian Rapoport, an NFL Network insider, stated even if this treatment was effective or not, Rogders and his team did not provide the NFL nor the NFL players association “documented protection from the virus.”

New Mexico High School Athletics. What is New Mexico’s Stance?

With Irving and Rodgers’ stories, questions such as New Mexico’s stance about vaccination status and the ability to participate in sports come to mind. The NMAA has provided Guidelines for the Participation in High School Athletics. The mask mandate for fans and players are still in effect for both outdoor and indoor sports, regardless of the person’s vaccination status.

The NMAA took the same approach as the NBA and the NFL regarding vaccine mandates. However, the NMAA has made it a requirement for young athletes to fill out an attestation form with the intentions to know the student athlete’s vaccination status. This is directly from the 2021-2022 Guidelines for Participation in the NMAA’s rule book.

NMSU, on the other hand, has now made it a requirement to submit proof of vaccination for COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The result from not submitting a proof of a vaccination or weekly testing could result in “student suspension or staff termination,” according to the Associated Press. NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, in accordance with President Biden’s vaccination mandate, has now made it a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated.

Does the federal government have the right to enforce a mandate for being vaccinated against COVID-19 and do universities have to follow this mandate?

The Subsequent Guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force stated a COVID-19 safeguard must be required for employees by their federal contractors. However, this only applies to employees that are binded by a federal funded contract within the institution.

So What About NMSU Students and Athletes?

Various universities have implemented different policies. Public universities, like the University of New Mexico and NMSU, have explored different avenues for inserting a mandate for the vaccine.

UNM has given an option of either getting vaccinated or only being allowed to take remote-study classes off campus. The university has given an “option” but it is not that desirable to the everyday college student. This strategy is implemented at other public universities to combat COVID-19. This strategy however has resulted in 256 students disenrolling from UNM this year, according to the Associated Press.

It is important to note that even though NMSU and UNM are implementing these new requirements for students, this does not necessarily mean you are forced to get the vaccine. So do student-athletes still have the choice to be vaccinated or not?

NMSU Athletics Department stated what their stance is in regard to vaccination status for their athletes. NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia when asked whether the NMSU Athletic Department requires players to be vaccinated stated, “No we do not”. Moccia did clarify that “If a student-athlete does not want to receive the vaccine they must undergo mandatory weekly testing per the NCAA.”

Moccia also provided answers for the protocols a student-athlete must undergo when they test positive for COVID-19. Moccia stated that, “Just like any other student on campus, the positive individual would need to be quarantined for 10 days after the positive test.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected NMSU student-athletes, NMSU coaches, and individuals like Moccia who work for the NMSU Athletic Department. Moccia stated that, “it has been a massive disruption” and talked about how difficult it was for NMSU not being allowed to play in the state of New Mexico last year.

NMSU student athletes last year, according to Moccia, were not allowed to workout in more than groups of five. Moccia stated that it was evident how this affected the performance of all NMSU athletic teams last year. Coaches were also having to live out of state and “away from their families” to be allowed to coach their teams.

When asked about the biggest obstacle the Athletic Department had faced last year, Moccia talked about how “the strict nature of the state of New Mexico has been the primary obstacle.”

This article was made by an NMSU Student Isaiah Torres for submission to the NMSU Round Up. 

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