Warriors’ Wiggins: Vaccine choice ‘private’ matter
- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins said that his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine to this point is a “private” matter, bristling Monday when the topic of potential lost salary was broached in a somewhat tense back-and-forth with reporters during the team’s media day.
“It’s my problem,” Wiggins said of the possibility of lost earnings. “Not yours.”
Wiggins’ current stance on the COVID-19 vaccine was the main talking point throughout press conferences with players and coaches all day. While the organization continues to be outwardly optimistic regarding Wiggins’ ability not to miss any regular season games this season, the stance becomes trickier given the restrictions about to be imposed within San Francisco.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health said last week that there would be no exemption for anyone 12 and older at large indoor gatherings.
“Under the current order, if unvaccinated, they cannot enter indoor areas regardless of the reason they are unvaccinated and cannot test out of this requirement even if they have a medical or religious exemption,” it said in a statement. Wiggins applied for a religious exemption to avoid taking the shot, but that request was denied by the NBA last Friday.
“It’s not uncomfortable,” Wiggins said, of all the attention his decision has created. “I’m confident in my beliefs and what I think is right, what I think is wrong. I’m just going to keep doing what I believe. Whether it’s one thing or another, just going to keep doing it.”
Warriors general manager Bob Myers remains optimistic that Wiggins and the rest of the Warriors will be ready to go when the regular season opens Oct. 19 at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“My belief and my thoughts are that we’ll have the full team,” Myers said. “I’m not preparing really for anything different right now … I don’t think — the hypothetical stuff doesn’t serve me. I get why you have to ask. I get why people have to wonder. But we’re going to deal in reality now and that’s what we’re doing each day. Like I said, I’m confident we’ll have a full team.”
Warriors star guard Stephen Curry acknowledged all the chatter around Wiggins’ status made it a “difficult” situation for the organization.
“At the end of the day, it is up to him,” Curry said. “I think it’s no secret to that point. We obviously hope that he has all the right information and access to the right resources to ask all the questions he has on making decision. We hope he’s available. We hope it moves in the right direction. My opinion is obviously I got it and ready to be available, and following, you know, the mandates and whatnot.
“But that’s kind of where it is and you know, the next coming weeks and how it all plays out is going to be entirely up to him. We obviously hope he’s available and with us and kind of go from there. It’s difficult. Everybody is in a difficult kind of position in that respect, and we’ve all made decisions that you feel like are right for and you your family and whatever the case is. So this is no different, whether you agree with him or not. You have to let it play out.”
Warriors teammate Andre Iguodala defended Wiggins’ stance and is hopeful the league can find a way to smooth out the issue.
“I’ve been upset reading about Andrew Wiggins because it’s painting the wrong picture,” Iguodala said. “You know, we’re in a day and age now where perception can become reality, and the perception that’s going on about him is hurting his value and ultimately can affect the wealth that he accumulates, which is totally unfair. When you do your homework the way it should be done, you understand there’s people who they have an excuse and there’s people who have actual values, and he’s a guy that has values, and he’s the type of guy who will stand guy and he’s the type of guy I’ll risk being around the situation.
“Now, I’m vaccinated and I have an understanding about this, and he has a different understanding, but his understanding is something that I truly respect and I have a value for how he sees life. He’s the type of guy that I support the whole way, and hopefully we can find a solution and I think we will.”
Iguodala, who has served in leadership roles within the NBPA, also rejected the notion that at some point the players’ association would have to make it so that all players would have to have the vaccination to play.
“I don’t think you can force it upon guys,” I just think you can give people options, and that’s what we try to do at the union and that’s what we try to do to protect our players physically, emotionally, psychologically. You just give guys options … you just give the guys a choice, and you make your choice and then you just live with the consequences. So I think you take — that’s the proper way to take it.”
As the Warriors wait for Wiggins to make a decision as the season approaches, he declined several opportunities to explain why he is steadfast in his belief against the vaccination, saying it was “none of (the media’s) business.”
“Back is definitely against the wall,” Wiggins said. “But just going to keep fighting for what I believe, whether it’s one thing or another, get the vaccination or not get the vaccination, who knows, like I’m just going to keep fighting for what I believe and what I believe is right. What’s right to one person isn’t right to the other, you know, vice versa.”
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