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How an NBA player’s stance on vaccines could harm his career, cost him millions

A view of Chase Center during a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Clippers.
A view of Chase Center during a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Clippers in October.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 29. I’m Justin Ray.

No field of work is immune to vaccine skepticism. It has been documented among wellness communities, law enforcement even healthcare workers. So it should not be surprising to hear that even the NBA is grappling with the issue of unvaccinated players. But when you consider how much they make, their vaccination rejection is potentially a multimillion dollar decision.

The NBA doesn’t require players to get vaccinated. However, the league isn’t exactly using the carrot over the stick; vaccine holdouts are subject to testing on all days involving practice or travel and could be tested multiple times on game days. They must also socially distance and quarantine should they come into contact with someone who tests positive, even if they don’t show symptoms. This means they could miss several games.

One player attracting attention for his stance on vaccination is Golden State Warrior’s shooting guard/small forward Andrew Wiggins. He has reportedly not received a COVID-19 shot, placing him among the 10% of NBA players who have not been vaccinated. Although he isn’t alone in the league, he has been the most vocal player about his stance in the state, California, that has done such a great job keeping the virus at bay.

Ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 season, many NBA teams held a media day on Monday, at which Wiggins was asked about his vaccination status.

“I’m confident in my beliefs and what I think is right and what I think is wrong,” Wiggins said, according to CBS. “I’m gonna keep doing what I believe.... What’s right for one person isn’t right for another. It’s none of your business is what it comes down to. I don’t ask you guys what you believe is right or wrong.”

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As he kept getting questions about the subject, he pivoted to attacking the media.

“I’ll say something when I’m ready,” Wiggins said. “The only thing the media has done is make it bigger than it has to be. I’ll say my side of everything when I’m ready.”

Should he stick to his guns, he will suffer a serious financial hit. According to the Sacramento Bee, “he stands to lose more than $350,000 per game,” and if he doesn’t play in any home games “he would surrender half of his $31.6 million salary.”

In a recent column, The Times’ Dan Woike didn’t hold back when talking about the NBA’s vaccination problem. However, Stephen Curry was more diplomatic when discussing his teammate’s decision.

“At the end of the day, it is up to him. It’s no secret to that point. 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,” Curry said. “We hope he’s available. We hope he moves in the right direction.

But it’s not just the NBA’s requirements that may prevent Wiggins from playing. His application for a religious exemption was denied by the NBA last week. And some cities — such as San Francisco, the city for which he plays — require vaccination for large indoor gatherings unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply. This means the 26-year-old could miss all Warriors home games this year.

But there is still time for something to change: San Francisco’s mandate won’t take effect until the middle of next month. Meanwhile, training camps opened Tuesday.

Further reading:

  • The Lakers are expected to be 100% vaccinated, Anthony Davis affirmed as the first player to speak at the team’s media day. LeBron James, who was next, said he was skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccination but did research and decided it was the right choice “not only for my family and for my friends, that’s why I decided to do it.” Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Britney Spears retracts statement calling new conservatorship documentary untruthful. Part of a recent Instagram post from Spears initially claimed that “a lot of” the information included in a new documentary about the pop musician “is not true.” That portion of the singer’s Monday statement has since been deleted, sending already skeptical fans into yet another frenzy over the mystery that is Spears’ Instagram account. Los Angeles Times

Britney Spears arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York in 2016.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

The head of the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD denounced the resistance to vaccinations among police officers. “I personally find it appalling that the personnel of a department charged with public safety would willfully, intentionally and brazenly endanger the lives of those who they have taken an oath to protect,” Los Angeles Police Commission President William Briggs said. He also called it “extremely dubious” that more than 2,600 LAPD personnel have legitimate medical or religious reasons to be exempted from the looming vaccination mandate for city employees, as they have claimed. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Police Commission President William Briggs denounced the resistance to vaccinations among LAPD officers.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A bitter dispute ends. As the Colorado River’s largest reservoirs sit at their lowest levels on record, water managers across the region have acknowledged that greater cooperation is needed to prevent the reservoirs from bottoming out. To that end, the Imperial Irrigation District has agreed to settle its dispute with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It marks a major shift that will allow the two entities to work together. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Authorities are looking for the slingshot vandal — or vandals — responsible for more than $500,000 in damage to shattered windows over the last year in San Jose. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office announced a $20,000 reward for information in the case. The district attorney’s crime lab has been hit eight times. “This is not just property damage. People live and work behind those windows,” Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said in a news release. Sacramento Bee

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Multiple Santa Rosa residents are raising concerns over a COVID-19 test site that they say has provided “inconsistent” results. Kendra Neese told the Bay Area’s ABC-7 the site “each time came back with a different result.” According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, California’s Department of Public Health is investigating two Medivolve coronavirus test sites in Sonoma County. Regarding the public health department investigation, Medivolve responded: “We are committed to fully cooperate and provide any additional information and data they ask for.” ABC-7

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Why Fresno is one of the nation’s hottest housing markets. Few places in the country have seen such dramatic growth in what it costs to rent an apartment as Fresno, the state’s fifth-populous city. The monthly rent for an average apartment has gone up nearly 60% since 2017 to $1,469. Times housing reporter Liam Dillon and CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias discuss what is causing the housing frenzy on a new episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” Los Angeles Times

The Michelin Guide and its authoritative but divisive star rating system have returned to California. On Tuesday morning the international restaurant guidebook, which returned after a year of pandemic hiatus, revealed its 2021 selections, including five new two-star designations — two of which can be found in Los Angeles. Santa Monica tasting menu restaurant Mélisse has rejoined the Michelin star system with two stars. Hayato, an intimate Japanese kaiseki restaurant in the Arts District, also earned two stars in the listings. There are still no three-star restaurants in Southern California. Los Angeles Times

How Los Angeles became the city of dingbats. In the 1950s and ’60s, developers faced with a housing crisis in Los Angeles tore down thousands of older buildings. They were replaced with what were known as “dingbats"— two- or three-story apartment complexes with exposed carports placed underneath the second floor. They were designed to house single people, young couples and other upwardly mobile new residents. Laura Bliss explains the history of the housing project and the aesthetic it brought to the city. Bloomberg

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: You think you’re ready for this video, but you’re not. 76. San Diego: I have so many questions. 73. San Francisco: How did they meet? 67. San Jose: Don’t they live in different climates or, idk, habitats? 77. Fresno: I’m not a zoologist, but I thought goats lived on mountains or, like, farms. 81. Sacramento: Monkeys don’t live on those either. Make it make sense. 84.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Gwen Green:

My parents moved to the San Fernando Valley when I was 9 years old, around 1956. The valley was simply rolling hills and orange groves. As children, all of us had our favorite tree and made little treehouses to play in. Many of us had horses. It was such a lovely childhood as we ran free through the trees until dinnertime.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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