Staples Center health protocols won’t change with city vaccination ordinance

A slow trickle of fans head toward the Staples Center entrance.
A slow trickle of fans head toward the Staples Center entrance for the Lakers-Celtics game on April 15, 2021, the first at the arena with spectators following the COVID pandemic.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

When Los Angeles’ new city ordinance requiring proof of vaccination to enter a wide range of indoor venues takes effect in November, those rules won’t apply at Staples Center, city and arena officials said, because a health order previously issued by the county covers the home of the NHL’s Kings and NBA’s Lakers and Clippers.

Currently, guests 2 or older entering the arena must provide either proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative COVID test result from the previous 72 hours. That will continue to be the case, even after the city’s vaccine ordinance takes hold. Guests must also continue to wear approved face coverings when not eating or drinking.

“The ordinance passed by the City of Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 6 does not apply to Staples Center or Microsoft Theater, who are already subject to an existing [L.A. County Department of Public Health] order addressing this subject matter,” a spokesperson for the venues wrote Thursday.


The NBA has maintained a position that teams must comply with their local laws. As with sweeping vaccine mandates recently put in place New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles’ ordinance, which was passed by the City Council on Wednesday and is expected to take effect in late November, exempts “non-resident performers” from providing proof of vaccination while performing or competing indoors in the city. An unvaccinated, opposing NBA player could still play against the Lakers and the Clippers at Staples Center.

For players on the Lakers’ and Clippers’ rosters, meanwhile, the situation appears to reveal a slight distinction between L.A.’s vaccination mandate and similar measures in San Francisco and New York City. Warriors, Knicks and Nets players must be vaccinated to practice or play indoors while in their home market.

Yet in Los Angeles, an unvaccinated Laker or Clipper could apparently still take part in home games, provided they provide proof of a negative test to comply with the county health order as it applies to Staples Center. The point could be moot for now, as both the Lakers and Clippers in recent weeks have said that their rosters are fully vaccinated, but teams often add new players throughout a season.

Federal authorities say 18 former NBA players, including one former Laker and four former Clippers, are charged with defrauding the league’s health benefit plan.

Rob Wilcox, the director of community engagement and outreach for L.A. city attorney Mike Feuer, wrote in an email that Staples Center is obligated to follow the county health order covering “an indoor mega event” with 1,000 or more attendees.

“The City Ordinance does not include any location that is required by a DPH order to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to providing indoor service,” Wilcox wrote. “Since the County Health Order covers the Staples Center, the Staples Center would need to comply with the County Order and would not be subject to the City Ordinance.”

Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ top basketball executive, said in September that every Laker would be fully vaccinated by the start of the regular season on Oct. 19. His Clippers counterpart, Lawrence Frank, and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer declined to discuss the team’s vaccination status in September. Days later, when asked whether the Clippers’ staff and roster was fully vaccinated, coach Tyronn Lue later said, “yes.”

“Our guys are vaccinated, so, we just have to do whatever the league tells us to do, we try to abide by the rules and kind of go from there,” Lue said.