Why MLB won’t mandate coronavirus vaccines

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The health and safety protocols for the 2021 MLB season were unveiled on Tuesday, and much of the focus was on the lack of expanded postseason or universal DH, since those impact the shape of the season itself. What caught my eye, though, was that MLB would not mandate coronavirus vaccinations for players, and instead, the league and the union would strongly encourage players to get vaccinated. That seems like a policy that doesn’t go quite far enough, no?

It might be about as far as the two sides can get with the limited time frame they were working with to get the season’s protocols in order, though. MLB cannot force players to be vaccinated. Well, scratch that: MLB can force players to be vaccinated, but then they will face legal repercussions for enacting that kind of policy on their own. More specifically, they could subject themselves to an unfair labor practice claim by doing so, according to a labor and employment lawyer, Thomas Lenz, whom the Los Angeles Times spoke to back in November.

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MLB reportedly pressured the Cactus League to request spring training delay

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You might have seen the news that the Cactus League told Major League Baseball that it would like to delay the start of spring training in Arizona by 30 days, due to the high infection rate of coronavirus in Maricopa County. This news broke on Monday, and on Tuesday, a different bit of news surrounding the letter was unveiled: MLB reportedly encouraged the Cactus League to send this letter, because MLB could then turn around and use it against the Players Association in order to delay spring training, and then, in turn, the regular season.

The Athletic’s Alex Coffey spoke to a very forthcoming source reportedly involved in a Zoom call earlier this month, between Cactus League and MLB officials:

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MLB won’t require fan COVID-19 tests, vaccinations

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Major League Baseball plans on having fans in attendance during the 2021 season, even though America is still in the midst of the pandemic that shortened the 2020 campaign. Sure, we’re seemingly closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning at this point, but we’ve also begun a vaccination rollout that is doubling as a campaign against the very concept of means testing, so who knows. What we do know is that MLB, per The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin, won’t be requiring negative COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination from those fans in attendance.

Their reasoning, at least for the tests? The results are meaningless from a safety perspective for those looking to attend a game:

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The MLB season should start on time, unless everything keeps getting worse

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Before the new year, there was some concern that Major League Baseball would fight to avoid starting the 2021 regular season at its normally scheduled time. I even wrote about it for Baseball Prospectus, as part of an explanation for why we didn’t have any answers for that and other questions like whether there would be an expanded postseason again, or if the National League would deploy the designated hitter once more. According to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, what the owners want doesn’t necessarily matter here, though: the players can just wait them out, and let the collective bargaining agreement handle the rest.

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Considering the “success” of sports during a pandemic

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​If you’re just talking about in terms of players falling ill with coronavirus, professional sports leagues in America have done a pretty decent job of having seasons despite the presence of an ongoing pandemic. Major League Baseball had some early scares when the Marlins and Cardinals both dealt with outbreaks, but then, until Justin Turner tested positive and then decided it was fine that he got out on the field to celebrate the Dodgers winning the World Series, things were mostly uneventful on the players testing positive front for the league.

The NBA did the best out there, which should not be a shock given their season took place in a bubble, but the WNBA also deserves a nod for their own success navigating the pandemic. The NFL is a mess, but of course they are: that’s what happens when you combine the hubris of MLB with even less care given to the actual health and safety of the players.

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Paying MLB’s stadium workers during COVID-19 suspension isn’t ‘complicated’

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Major League Baseball would like you to know something: paying stadium workers during the postponement of the 2020 regular season is going to be “complicated.” How do we know this? Because that’s what was reported on Sunday by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:

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MLB is forcing MiLB players to leave spring training, without pay or hope

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Spring training is officially over, and the Major League Baseball Players Association sent out a memo to its members telling them they could stay at the spring training facility, go home, or head to the city that their team plays in. The allowances teams give to players during spring training, like for housing, are still in effect. The on-field facilities players use to prep for the regular season will remain open to those who stay, as well, and teams will assist in flying out the families of any players who had their families with them in Arizona or Florida, to boot.

According to minor-league players spoken to under the condition of anonymity, MLB’s response was much more terse and disconcerting: go home. It was left up to each individual team to craft their own message to their minor-league players that said as much, but that was what had to be relayed from above. Go home, whether you’re a domestic or international player. Go home, because you, as minor-league players, don’t have the protections and rights to negotiating an exit as unionized players.

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Mavericks will pay arena workers during coronavirus suspension, but what about every other team?

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American sports’ response to coronavirus is still lacking

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Despite the growing threat of coronavirus — which the World Health Organization is close to calling a pandemic, which now has over 1,000 confirmed cases in the United States despite America failing to test for the virus at the same rate as other afflicted countries — American sports leagues, for the most part, are going about business as usual.

Yes, the media is now barred from locker rooms and clubhouses across four major active sports (MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS), but fans are still attending those games. Media members can’t get within six-to-eight feet of a player to interview them, but 20,000-plus people still get to sit elbow-to-elbow, eating food from a concessions worker who can’t afford to take the day off if they have a cough, and then those 20,000 people disperse into the world once more, potentially carrying COVID-19 with them into their next interactions.

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