Ninety percent of NBA players have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins isn’t part of that group.
On Monday, Wiggins spoke publicly for the first time since being denied a request for a religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. Despite the fact that he won’t be able to play in home games until he complies with San Francisco health guidelines, the 26-year-old isn’t backing down from his stance.
“It’s not uncomfortable. I’m confident in my beliefs, what I think is right, and what I think is wrong,” Wiggins said at Golden State’s media day. “I’m just gonna keep doing what I believe, whether it’s one thing or another, just gonna keep doing it.”
Wiggins told reporters that he has gotten nothing but “love and support” from his teammates, but the Warriors’ most important player sure sounds like he’s frustrated with Wiggins’ refusal to get vaccinated.
“At the end of the day, it is up to him. I think it’s no secret to that point,” Golden State star Stephen Curry said. “We obviously hope that he has all the right information, the access to the right resources to ask all the questions he has on making that decision. We hope he’s available. We hope he moves in the right direction. My opinion is, obviously I got [vaccinated] and am ready to be available and following the mandates and whatnot. But that’s kind of where it is, and in the next coming weeks and how it all plays out is gonna be entirely up to him.
“We obviously hope he’s available and with us and kind of go from there. It’s difficult. Everybody’s in a difficult kind of position in that respect, and we’ve all made decisions that you feel like are right for you and your family and whatever the case is. This is no different, and whether you agree with him or not, you have to let it play out.”
When asked if he would consider it “acceptable” to not have a starter available for half of the 2021-22 regular season, Curry offered a very telling answer.
“Acceptable is a strong word,” Curry said. “It’s not ideal, but I don’t think anyone expected to be asked that question on something that’s a voluntary decision, I guess, in a sense. We’ll see. We hope not. We hope we have a full team for the entire year and understand that on all accounts, what research says and things like that, that it’s safe and we’re all in the same boat.
“We hope he’s available, and if not, we adjust accordingly.”
Curry was diplomatic in his response, but it was easy to see the exasperation on his face. The information about vaccination has been available to NBA players for months, and the Warriors reportedly even went so far as to connect Wiggins with an Oakland doctor to discuss his hesitancy in getting the vaccine. After a conversation with the doctor, he was still “unmoved in his decision against vaccination,” per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons.
The two-time NBA MVP may understand the personal nature of the decision, but he also sees how much Wiggins’ absence would hurt Golden State. In 71 games last season, Wiggins averaged 18.6 points while shooting a career-high 47.7 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from 3-point range. With Klay Thompson’s exact return date unclear at the moment, the Warriors need Wiggins to take some of the offensive burden off Curry’s shoulders.
Until he gets vaccinated, though, Wiggins won’t be able to help Curry at all inside the Chase Center.
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