New York's Sports Vaccine Mandates Are Just Plain Nuts

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New York City, not exactly the sanest place in the galaxy, has done little to change its reputation by maintaining its private-sector employer vaccine mandate for sports teams, even though it is scientifically laughable. New York athletes are banned from playing home games unless they are vaccinated but allowed to play road games. And players who can't play are allowed to sit there and watch. Welcome to Crazyville.

1. A feeble attempt at grammar

Let's start with a segue at the beginning of an article. This may be technically impossible; I just don't know. Strunk and White have nothing to say about this, which is unlikely to change since they are both dead.

Here we go----> Speaking of nuts (1), Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving scored a ridiculous 60 points against Orlando the other night. In the unlikely event that he keeps up the pace, he will be averaging...30 (2) points per game. Why the discrepancy? New York City's idiotic policy bans non-vaccinated athletes from playing in the city. So when the Nets play in Brooklyn (or Madison Square Garden) Irving, who refuses to be vaccinated, sits.

2. Why?

I'll leave the issue of all vaccine mandates to those who wish to get into a political debate. (I'd rather snort sulfuric acid.) Let's just say that they at least made sense, especially for healthcare workers, roughly a year ago – a time before Delta and Omicron arrived on the scene and hospitals were overwhelmed in certain areas. Even then, my colleague Cameron English argued here and here that mandates were counterproductive.

3. Who's being protected?

Things have changed radically in the past year. The term "breakthrough infections" is pretty much obsolete; it is no longer rare for vaccinated people to catch COVID. As of February 2022, about 64% of the US was "fully vaccinated" (whatever that means); for New York State that number was 75%. Yet, omicron blew through the country, infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. This undermined the argument that vaccinating yourself protected others, although, at least theoretically, this may still be true to some extent (3). 

4. Protecting Brooklyn?

Here's how many people will be protected if Kyrie Irving decides to get vaccinated: Zero. The idea that his vaccine status makes the slightest difference in the health of his team, its staff, or any of the 19,000 suffering fans (the Nets have a splendid 4-16 record in their last 20 games) that are packed into Barclays Center is preposterous. 

Roughly 25% of these fans will be unvaccinated and masks are no longer required. If anyone is going to catch COVID at a Nets game it will surely be from another fan, not a player. When the Nets play in Brooklyn Irving can now be a spectator but he can't suit up. Then, after the Nets lose play Irving joins the team and they all travel to, let's say, Cleveland, where he will play with the exact same teammates that he had to stay from away from in New York. 

If anyone can explain how this stupid policy makes any sense whatsoever please drop me a note. 

(Parenthetically, Kevin Durant, arguably the best player on the Nets, is actually protected when Irving plays. That's because, in the absence of any appreciable talent, e.g. Irving and James Harden, who is now in Philly, Durant usually has 19 defenders hanging off him since there isn't anyone else worth covering.)

5. It's not just basketball - Aaron Judge in the spotlight (and in the headlights)

It's nothing short of heartwarming that the multimillionaire major league baseball players just reached an agreement with the billionaire owners and New Yorkers will be blessed cursed with baseball this summer! If you missed yesterday's cringe-worthy press conference Aaron Judge, one of the few Yankees who understand the concept that the bat is supposed to hit the ball, danced around reporter's vaccination questions in a manner that would Fred Astair (in his prime) seem like he was dancing in an iron lung. Judge, who is clearly unvaccinated, looked like he would rather be orbiting Neptune in a Pex dispenser than trying to answer reporter's questions. (Vaccination was not an issue last season; the NYC private sector vaccine mandate became law in December 2021 thanks to then-mayor Bill de Blasio – a politician so beloved that during his brief 2020 presidential campaign he was supported by almost 60%(!)...of his family.)

6. New York, New York, a helluva town...

De Blasio's successor Eric Adams just announced that no Yankees or Mets will be able to play home games until he gets around to deciding that it's OK. 

“We’re going to do an analysis. Baseball season is not tomorrow. It’s not next week. We are going to work this out. We will ensure the safety of New Yorkers without continuing the spread of COVID."

NYC Mayor Eric Adams (with a straight face) 3/16/22

The zero people that were protected by keeping Kyrie from playing in Brooklyn will equal the same number protected by banning unvaccinated Yankees and Mets from playing at home, except this (somehow) makes even less sense. since games at both Citifield and Yankee Stadium are played outside. If Adams really wants to protect players from infectious diseases he ought to ban spitting. This insane ritual persisted even last year and it made even less sense! Players sitting in the dugout wearing masks pulled them down, spit, and then covered up again. This left me speechless. Just like the Yankees offense. 

This isn't just about sports but I'm stepping out here. Here's an invitation for a bunch of angry people to start yelling at each other about...whatever... in the comments section. May the best team win.


(1) Kyrie Irving, at least according to his reputation, occupies his own astral plane. Irving has been quoted about the earth being flat and not rotating around the sun, the Federal Reserve killing JFK, and that the CIA tried to kill Bob Marley. 

(2) OK, basketball fans know that if Irving plays half the games and scores 60 in all of them, his average is 60 PPG, not 30. I was using 30 to make a point - his average per Nets game. And that's not even right, since the Nets played two games in MSG this season. Let's say 29 PPG. 

(3) My colleague Charles "Chuckles" Dinerstein and I have the same argument constantly. I maintain that vaccination now does little to protect others because omicron is so infectious that it can get anyone. Chuck maintains that vaccinated people, even if they become infected, will produce fewer viral particles and therefore be less contagious. This is no doubt true. The only question is whether it makes any difference given the crazy infectivity of omicron. We'll argue for a few more years and get back to you.