Members of New Orleans Pelicans organization, including some players, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the team said in a news release on Sunday.
“The Pelicans support the state’s vital efforts to encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as large-scale vaccination of our community is the best way to keep everyone safe and to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” the team said.
The Pelicans did not say who received the vaccine, but Pelicans guard Sindarius Thornwell tweeted he was getting the first dose on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Louisiana expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines “to include people who have health conditions that may result in a higher risk of disease.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said players and staffers will not skip the line to receive the vaccine. So Pelicans players who receive it met the requirement, according to league and state protocols.
“League policy requires teams to follow their state’s vaccination guidelines and programs and we are fully supportive of players and team staff being vaccinated when they are eligible,” NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass said in a statement.
As recently as March 6 at All-Star Weekend, Silver said he was not aware of any player who had received but acknowledged that “there are some coaches who have been vaccinated, as well as some team personnel,” he said. “The coaches who have been vaccinated is because they were age-appropriate under the protocols in the jurisdictions where they live. There are other team personnel, again, it’s state by state, but because they’re either health-care providers, we have doctors working with the team, et cetera. So there have been some members of the community that have been vaccinated.”
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich received the vaccine and did a public-service announcement.
The league has run into some resistance from players who are reluctant to appears in vaccine PSAs or receive the vaccine.
“Ultimately, these are personal decisions that players need to make, just like everyone in our communities need to make,” Silver said. “We see our role, together with the (National Basketball) Players Association, providing them with the best possible information, and also encouraging them to seek out information on their own. They have personal physicians, others they may rely on.
“Dr. Leroy Sims, who works with the NBA, has been conducting a series of Zoom calls with the teams. I know the teams have been also providing their own resources to players, along with the Players Association, to help them make those decisions.”
Silver said the league would not mandate that players get vaccinated.
Silver said it wasn’t necessary for players to have the vaccine in order to increase fan attendance.
“It’s with a combination of vaccines, antibodies, herd immunity in communities, proper safety and cleanliness protocols,” Silver said, “we’ll be able to return to something that looks a lot closer to normal beginning next season, at least based on the information I have available to me today.”