Warriors’ Wiggins explains vaccine decision, lingering concerns

Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins (22) dribbles the ball up the court against the Washington Wizards during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Andrew Wiggins said he ultimately decided to get a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure he could continue his NBA career, however the Golden State Warriors star explained he felt “forced” to do so.

Wiggins spoke with reporters following his team’s pre-season opener Monday for the first time since deciding to get vaccinated.

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA,” Wiggins said. “It was a tough decision. Hopefully, it works out in the long run and in 10 years I’m still healthy.”

Since the San Francisco Department of Public Health will soon require proof of vaccination for large indoor events, it meant Wiggins wouldn’t be allowed into the Chase Center for his team’s home games or practices beginning Oct. 13 unless he got vaccinated.

On Monday it was reported the NBA and NBAPA agreed to a reduction in pay of 1/91.6th of an unvaccinated player’s annual salary for each game that player misses due to local COVID-19 vaccine regulations.

Wiggins is set to earn more than $31 million for the 2021-22 season, so he would’ve been forced to forfeit close to half of that had he not been permitted to participate in his team’s 41 home games over an 82-game schedule.

Wiggins added that he doesn’t hold any ill will towards his organization.

“They didn’t make the rule,” Wiggins said, referring to the San Francisco mandates, “but I guess to do certain stuff, to work, I guess you don’t own your body. That’s what it comes down to. If you want to work in society today, then I guess they made the rules of what goes in your body and what you do. Hopefully, there’s a lot of people out there that are stronger than me and keep fighting, stand for what they believe, and hopefully, it works out for them.”

Editor’s note: With overwhelming consistency, research has shown vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Residents of Canada who are looking to learn more about vaccines, or the country’s pandemic response, can find up-to-date information on Canada’s public health website.

The 26-year-old Toronto native also cited concerns over potential, currently unknown long-term effects of a COVID-19 vaccine. Though longitudinal studies have not yet been conducted, no research currently suggests there is a risk any such effects exist. Wiggins also said he previously contracted COVID-19 – he said for him it “wasn’t too bad” – and he referred to a previous scary allergic reaction he had to a medication as additional reasons for his hesitancy.

The NBA denied Wiggins’s request for a religious exemption from the local vaccine mandate.

While the 2014 first-overall pick and 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year received criticism from media and fans for not wanting to disclose his vaccination status, a handful of his NBA teammates and peers supported him and even echoed some of the concerns Wiggins and others like Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac have expressed.

“We’re dealing with something that, to me, feels like has turned into a political war,” Wiggins’s Warriors teammate Draymond Green said last week. “I think there is something to be said for people’s concern about something that’s being pressed so hard. … I think you have to honour people’s feelings and their own personal beliefs – and I think that’s been lost when it comes to vaccinated and non-vaccinated.”

LeBron James appeared to endorse Green’s statement by quote-tweeting a video clip of with the caption, “Couldn’t have said it any better.”

The NBA’s current vaccination rate is more than 95 per cent, according to a recent report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wiggins added: “It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that’s going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was forced to.”

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