SAN FRANCISCO -- After nearly seven seasons in the NBA desert of Minnesota, he transitioned to the Bay Area, where he was obscured by All-Stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
Perfect. Toiling in shadows brought comfort to Andrew Wiggins.
Now, as he bucks the tide of the relentless COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes are on him. He’s in the spotlight. It’s bright. It’s hot. It’s harsh.
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Will Andrew blink?
No. Not yet, if at all.
Even though his unvaccinated status could cost him millions in salary.
“I know,” Wiggins said Monday during media day. “And it’s my problem, not yours.”
Golden State Warriors
Wiggins did not explain his rationale for avoiding COVID vaccines – “It’s none of your business” – and was reluctant to engage the subject at all in his first meeting with reporters since Golden State’s season ended in May. He consistently declined to discuss his status.
“Anything that has to do with my status, vaccination, it’s a private matter,” he said. “So, I’m going to keep it personal and private.”
Numerous team and league sources have acknowledged the Wiggins has not taken any of the vaccines and has resisted even the persuasive efforts of teammates and staff.
If Wiggins is not fully vaccinated by Oct. 13 – which can only happen if he takes the Johnson & Johnson single shot by Wednesday – he will not be allowed inside Chase Center. No games. No practices. As that date, according to the mandate issued by the City of San Francisco, only those fully vaccinated will be allowed inside.
“Back is definitely against the wall,’ Wiggins conceded. “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.”
What’s clear, is that Wiggins’ principles are guiding his resistance.
What’s not clear, not yet, is whether he’ll be willing to compromise those principles for the sake of remaining a full-time Warriors employee and also considered the most valuable of professional sports attributes: Team player.
Wiggins’ decision is, at this point, about his priorities. About his love of game, which has been questioned. About his commitment to his teammates, which has been subjected to scrutiny.
Neither team president Bob Myers nor coach Steve Kerr were willing to discuss details of Wiggins’ status, or even acknowledge that he is not vaccinated. Though multiple sources have told NBC Sports Bay Area that there has been a push to get it done.
“Everybody got something to say,” Wiggins said.
It’s the only way Wiggins will have a chance to be with his teammates and coaches for all 82 games, 41 of which are scheduled for Chase Center. For every game he misses, he’ll forfeit more than $350,000 in pre-tax salary.
In the end, though, Wiggins’ decision is about examining raw data readily available on numerous websites, deciding whether he trusts science and seeing the devastation caused by a pandemic deep into its second year.
It’s as much a humanity issue as it is a basketball issue.
Wiggins said he has spoken with former Timberwolves teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who not only survived a bout with COVID but has lost seven family members to the condition. Still no movement.
Wiggins attempted to receive an exemption based on religious beliefs, but the NBA denied that request. He has been in contact with the players association, which is against vaccination mandates but has no influence in San Francisco. The league is deferring to the city.
Everyone is watching Wiggins, and he is running out of options. The Warriors are running out of patience. The only way this gets resolved in a way that satisfies the majority is if he changes his mind. If he decides to get vaccinated.
As of Monday afternoon, there was no sign of that.