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NBA Says Unvaccinated Players Will Be Ineligible to Play in Canada, per Report

The NBA informed teams Monday that players who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 and have not received medical clearance from getting the vaccine will still be ineligible to play in Toronto during the 2022–23 season, according to a memo obtained by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

The memo states that if players are ineligible to play games in Canada, teams must list them as “Out - Health and Safety Protocols,” on official pregame injury reports, per Bontemps. Players will also lose their pay for any games missed as a result of not being vaccinated.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer first reported that the league had distributed a memo to its 30 teams on Monday.

The memo confirms these are the same rules that were in place throughout the 2021–22 NBA season that prohibited unvaccinated players from entering Canada at all. Those restrictions prevented at least two players, Nets guard Kyrie Irving and 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle, from participating in road games against the Raptors.

Irving’s case captured NBA headlines throughout last year’s campaign as a New York City vaccine mandate for players and personnel remained in place until March. As a result, the Nets star, who missed just a single game in Toronto, did not play in his home arena in Brooklyn until NYC mayor Eric Adams lifted the mandate late in the season.

Meanwhile, Thybulle missed four road games against the Raptors last season–one in the regular season and three in the playoffs–because he had not received a second COVID-19 shot. Philadelphia still won the first-round series in six games.

The Raptors will play at least 44 games in Canada this upcoming season, beginning with preseason games in Edmonton against the Jazz, in Montreal against the Celtics and in Toronto against the Bulls. The franchise will then play its usual slate of 41 regular-season home games at Scotiabank Arena.

While unvaccinated players will remain ineligible to play in Canada, the NBA is reportedly getting rid of its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the 2022–23 season, per a league memo obtained by Yahoo Sports last month. Though the mandate will not be in place, the league will still strongly suggest all players and personnel be fully vaccinated and up to date with any federal or state guidelines. 

Additionally, the NBPA is continuing discussions about testing unvaccinated players and personnel every so often.

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