Dozens of eligible members of the New Orleans Pelicans organization, including multiple players, received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, the team announced.
The Pelicans received their vaccines through a partnership with a local hospital and in consultation with team doctors and officials.
On Tuesday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, allowing anyone 16 or older with a health condition that may result in a higher risk of disease to get the vaccine.
One of the 12 conditions is being overweight, which is defined as someone having a body mass index of over 25, a criterion that many NBA players hit despite being professional athletes. Anyone in the state with conditions like asthma, hypertension and Type 1 diabetes are also now eligible.
“The Pelicans support the state’s vital efforts to encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as large-scale vaccination of our community is the best way to keep everyone safe and to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” the team said in a statement Sunday.
The Pelicans worked with Ochsner Medical Center to get eligible members of the organization their first shot — if they chose to receive it.
“The three COVID vaccines we have are safe and effective and everyone who qualifies should get the shot as soon as they can,” said Christina Edwards, deputy chief of staff for communications for Gov. Edwards, in a statement to ESPN. “People, like members of the Pelicans, can consult with their doctors about if they might qualify because of their health conditions.”
Sources told ESPN that while the majority of players on the Pelicans who were eligible received the shot, not every player did. Pelicans reserve guard Sindarius Thornwell became the first player to publicly acknowledge his intent to get the vaccine with a tweet late Friday night.
I’m getting the vaccine shot tomorrow… ya boy kinda nervous 😂😂
— sindarius thornwell (@Sin_City_803) March 13, 2021
Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli tweeted that he received his first shot Saturday and that he “can’t wait” to get his second shot.
I got the first Covid vaccine shot yesterday. I feel lucky that I had this opportunity. Can’t wait to get second shot in three weeks.
If you can, get it. #vaccine
— Nicolò Melli (@NikMelli) March 14, 2021
“League policy requires teams to follow their state’s vaccination guidelines and programs and we are fully supportive of players and team staff being vaccinated when they are eligible,” an NBA spokesperson said in a statement.
Around the league, some coaches have begun to probe performance staff and team doctors, asking them when a vaccine will become available. At least one team intends to put together vaccine programs for staff and players, but that could still be weeks away.
The Dallas Mavericks are awaiting approval from the NBA office before moving forward on plans for players and staff to get vaccinated, a source told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
During his news conference before the All-Star Game on March 6, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he knew of some coaches and team personnel who had already received the vaccine, but no players had gotten it to his knowledge. Silver said the league had no plans to mandate that players get vaccinated and that he didn’t see every player getting vaccinated as a requirement for teams to open up their arenas to more fans.
“I think it’s with a combination of vaccines, antibodies, herd immunity in communities, proper safety and cleanliness protocols, we’ll be able to return to something that looks a lot closer to normal beginning next season, at least based on the information I have available to me today,” Silver said.
Silver added that players who do receive the vaccine could avoid having to quarantine because of a close contact with someone who tested positive.
“In addition, right now as we operate under this so-called work quarantine protocol, where players are largely only going between their homes and the arenas, once they get vaccinated they’ll be able to do more in their communities,” Silver said. “That’s something we’ve already begun talking to the Players Association about. So there will be some real advantages and benefits to getting vaccinated for the players. Again, they have to make personal decisions at the end of the day. I take that very seriously. I take concerns very seriously. But my sense is most will ultimately decide that it’s in their interest to get vaccinated.”
ESPN reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews contributed to this report.