Professional Athletes and the COVID Vaccine: Personal Choice or Mandate?

Professional Athletes and the COVID Vaccine: Personal Choice or Mandate?

Jacob B., Editor

Why would anyone choose to be unsafe against a deadly disease? For the past year and a half, the world worked to prevent more deaths amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. When a vaccine became available, the world rejoiced. However, many people, including some professional athletes, are against the vaccine for a variety of reasons. 

When the COVID vaccine first became available in December 2021, people’s skepticism was understandable. After many months of this vaccine working with minimal issues, it is puzzling that there remain athletes against it. 

One NFL player, Cole Beasley, is  resistant to rules about what he does to his own body. He remarks that “[he] may die of Covid, but [he would] rather die actually living,” (KXAN News). 

Kyrie Irving, an NBA player on the Brooklyn Nets, also shares this opinion, stating, “it’s just about the freedom of what [he] want[s] to do” ( Irving believes that it is wrong for people to be losing their jobs over vaccine mandates. Irving condemns the mandate, expressing that “this is [his] life. [He] get[s] to do whatever [he] want with this, this is one body that [he] get[s] here. And [the NBA] are telling [him] what to do with [his] body.” (

According to, only around 50% of professional tennis players are vaccinated. The top-ranked male professional tennis player, Novak Djokovic, opposes vaccination, along with many other players. However, unvaccinated people  may not be allowed to play the Australian Open in January 2022. Australian government official, Martin Pakula, said this week, “If I was an ATP (men’s professional tennis association) or WTA (women’s professional tennis association) player, I’d be getting vaccinated.” (

It is clear that people should get the COVID-19 vaccine to help end this pandemic and make the world safer. President Joe Biden informed the public that patience is wearing thin” (NY Times, 09/09/21) about the large number of people still unvaccinated. Given this reprimand, following several government and corporate vaccine mandates in a country that prides itself on individual freedom, it is understandable that many people feel unduly forced to receive the vaccine. 

The NFL’s guidelines present a good model of balancing freedom of choice and keeping people safe. The NFL does not mandate that every player must be vaccinated, but unvaccinated players need to wear a mask indoors and  get tested for the virus every day. Unvaccinated NFL players receive fines for breaking these policies. In my opinion, these rules are fair because the league is not requiring that everyone must receive the vaccine, but at the same time, they are also making sure that every team is as safe as they can possibly be to play. Nonetheless, there is an additional risk to teams because of this, for if there is an outbreak because of an unvaccinated player, the team must forfeit, which counts as a loss. 

The NBA, on the other hand, requires all players to comply with the local area’s vaccination requirement. The ultimatum, get vaccinated or you cannot play for our team, seems a bit too harsh when there are alternatives, such as daily testing and mask-wearing, that could be implemented. It is also unfair that the NBA’s policy is not consistent as vaccine requirements depend on geographic area. 

Even though I believe that everyone’s personal freedoms matter, there are limits when public safety is involved. I feel that everyone has a duty to live in a way that protects other people from risk or harm, despite the American value of choice. Issues with the vaccine are rare, and if people want to stay away from COVID-19, a lethal virus, then they should get the vaccine. There are always solutions to balance personal choice with public safety.