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Halftime Thoughts: Should mandatory vaccination be implemented in leagues?

Vaccine mandates throughout the world of sports have sparked an ongoing controversy among athletes and fans.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in 2020 halted the entire sports world. Leagues all over the globe had to either suspend or cancel the ongoing seasons to safeguard the health of players, staff, and fans alike. However, the recent resumption of play had varied restrictions in different countries; some followed the same schedule of home-and-away games but without spectators, while others had to organize a “bubble” situation.

Although sporting committees may have different methods in holding games, one thing they all agreed on is that in order to revert back to normal operations, vaccinations of all involved individuals must be achieved. Due to the great progress of developed countries, many sporting events have now welcomed fans back into the stadiums, even allowing full capacity to be reached.

But controversy has now risen regarding the mandatory vaccination rules being set in multiple cities, with some athletes questioning the effectiveness of these vaccines and denouncing these new mandates.

Why they need it

Vaccines stimulate the creation of antibodies when injected into the body. By allowing the body to produce these, we can be better safeguarded when exposed to the same virus they’re meant to fight against. As such, this is especially important in sports regardless of how close contact is with teammates or opponents. 

These vaccines were not available from the get go. To address the initial lack of resources, many leagues around the world managed to commence by setting strict quarantine guidelines for athletes. Predictably, there were struggles encountered as movement around each sport and practices were reduced.

However, the bigger issue for athletes was lacking the impact of fans; they couldn’t anymore feed off the energy in the stadium to perform at their best. In fact, very few were able to witness recent significant sporting moments such as Lionel Messi’s long-awaited major trophy for Argentina. 

The condition still stands: the only way to return to normalcy was for all involved to be vaccinated, including the ones in the bleachers.

Why they won’t take it

The ongoing controversy lies in the players doubting the effectiveness of the vaccine. An example of this issue would be the refusal of NBA superstar Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated. As it stands, he is unable to compete in crucial matches for his team, making him miss home games and losing around USD15 million of his salary. Additionally, a player’s continued absence affects the team’s chemistry and morale in the locker room, which of course can lead to unsatisfactory results.

Some select tennis players have also been skeptical about taking the vaccine, including world’s top-ranked player Novak Djokovic. Concerns regarding the vaccine’s side effects, however, was due to misinformation or the lack of information entirely. Last August, French player Jeremy Chardy was forced to end his Association of Tennis Professionals season early after experiencing movement-limiting pain following his vaccination—a given temporary side effect following inoculation. With cities looking into mandatory vaccination, stances like that of Djokovic’s may prove to be costly. Like in Victoria, Australia, officials are considering imposing a ban wherein only vaccinated players would be allowed to participate in the Australian Open. This mandate could be a huge blow for Djokovic as he looks to break the record for Grand Slams in his most successful tournament yet.

Why they should take it

A popular statement given by notorious athletes is that they are still doing their own research, showing their indifference toward scientific findings. 

NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy perfectly counters this ongoing reasoning, pointing out that there already is research that supports the importance of and the need for vaccines. Additionally, Michael Jordan was blunt with his  stance regarding the issue, stating that he is a “firm believer in science.” 

One thing that everybody should keep in mind is that scientific findings are determined through extensive experimentation and review. As such, these are meant to be treated as facts, instead of as matters open for individual interpretation.

Mandatory vaccination is crucial to maximize safety for all athletes, staff, and fans involved. Even LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have expressed that they took the vaccine to protect their loved ones. That, to me, seems like such a straightforward yet resounding statement. Putting it into perspective, all these doubtful players are showing they care more about themselves more than they do for the people around them. 

There are certain facets in life where there are numerous ways to reach the same goal. This is not one of them. There are others that are desperate for the vaccine as it is an added assurance to their health, yet some players still remain skeptical about the facts staring them in the face.

Many people all over the world do not have the privilege to be inoculated at this time. It is a simple, considerate decision for athletes to take the vaccine to protect themselves and others, and to guide the sports world back into the one we know and love.

By Aren Reyes

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