Mayor Eric Adams Turns NYC Vaccine Mandate into Farce with Ruling that Benefits Yankees, Mets
We’ve all been living through a pandemic for the past two years, without the ability to opt out. We’re exhausted from managing the free-floating fear that one of our loved ones might catch the virus and die, or that a new mutation could come along any day and throttle our ability to leave the house and/or make a living.
We’re all confused about the ever-changing rules that federal and local governments have implemented to try to keep us safe. The media likes to highlight the stunt queens who spit on employees who ask them to wear masks, but the reality is the vast majority of Americans understand we are living through a dystopian nightmare where everyone is just trying to do their best to stay alive, and they’ve been acting with grace and dignity.
As frustrating and arbitrary as it can feel sometimes to put on a mask, we do it because we’re trying to both help keep people safe and keep things moving. And we know the people who ask are just doing their jobs. Also, it’s not a big deal! Wearing an N-95 for 20 minutes a day when browsing Target is not as much of a threat to our bodily independence as, say, Russian missiles flattening maternity wards in Ukraine, despite what Tucker Carlson says.
Sometimes the mask rules don’t make sense, but I have refrained from railing against hypocrisy on this issue because governing in a pandemic feels impossible: New research is published every day, and the situation is defined by its fluidity because this virus literally mutates. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.
I am unabashedly pro-science. I’m triple-vaxxed and have no issue wearing a mask. In fact, I might wear one on public transportation for the rest of my life to help avoid getting sick. But what happened in New York on Thursday morning is too egregious to not say something. Last fall, then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio expanded a city-wide vaccine mandate to include all employees of private businesses. This meant that everybody who showed up for work in NYC had to show proof of vaccination or they would lose their jobs. In February, the city fired 1,430 workers who failed to comply.
The mandate became a major sports story when Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving said he would not receive the vaccine, which meant that he has been ineligible all season to play in home games at the Barclays Center or in away games vs. the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. And it looked like this mandate would ensnare unvaccinated New York Mets and Yankees when the MLB season kicks off on April 7. Earlier this week, current NYC mayor Eric Adams said that he would not roll back the mandate to benefit unvaccinated MLB players, and that they would have to wait their turn like everyone else for the mandate to be lifted when virus conditions improved.
We don’t know how many Mets and Yankees remain unvaccinated, but we do know that MLB’s player vaccination rate is lower than the NBA’s, NFL’s and NHL’s. Yankee stars Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo are both rumored to be unvaccinated. (Both were asked about their status last week and both declined to answer.) And while speculation about a player’s medical records is an icky slope to start sliding down, the COVID-19 shot has real-world implications for the Yankees’ ability to compete, especially in their stacked division. The Canadian government has said it will not allow unvaccinated baseball players into the country. The Yankees are scheduled to play 10 games against the Blue Jays in Toronto this year. Unless the government relaxes its rules, unvaccinated players will not even be able to make the trip, let alone play.
When queried about the potential competitive disadvantage employing unvaccinated players might cause, the Mets and Yankees remained publicly unfazed. But the implications of vaccine mandates are so massive that the Red Sox made sure Trevor Story agreed to be vaccinated before they signed him, because they did not want to be without him during regular-season and potential postseason games in Toronto. (Story reportedly complied because his $140 million contract was at risk.)
The Yankees and Mets were apparently right to shrug their shoulders. In a complete reversal from 48 hours before, Mayor Adams announced on Thursday morning that he was waiving the vaccine mandate for athletes and performers. First, Adams tried to say that he rolled back the mandate because it wasn’t fair that visiting players didn’t have to be vaccinated while the home teams did. “We were treating our performers differently because they live and play in New York City,” he said in a press conference announcing the move. Then he got real. “A small number of people have an outsized impact on our economy," he said, to explain his change of heart.
It should be obvious by now that this decision had nothing to do with following the science and everything to do with following the money.
This is a reader supported newsletter. Both free and paid versions are available. If you’d like to support me and my work, you can do that by taking out a paid subscription now:
Look, I want everyone to be vaccinated. I wake up every day angry that America can’t even agree on a basic set of facts because a good chunk of the country bases their identity on being virulently anti-science. There is no good reason why healthy adult men like Trevor Story and Kyrie Irving should be so staunchly anti-vaccine when all of the research shows that getting COVID-19 is orders of magnitude more dangerous than simply getting the jab. There is no way to have a rational conversation with anti-vaxxers, however, because theirs is a stance without evidence. There is no data to back up their beliefs, only their nagging feeling that science is bad and cannot be trusted.
What Mayor Adams did on Thursday only bolsters that distrust. None of the science changed in the previous 48 hours. The only thing that changed was MLB’s Opening Day got two days closer. It appears Adams decided he simply could not stomach the political blowback of various Mets and Yankees being unable to take the field at home for an indefinite period of time.
Here’s hoping the conditions in New York City truly are safe enough for unvaccinated players to suit up. But this wasn’t a decision informed by science. It was a reminder that, yet again, the rules are different for rich people than for the rest of us. (Baseball journalists do not get a choice on this issue, either. We must all be triple-vaccinated and wearing masks to enter any MLB locker room in America).
If Adams is going to relax the rules for unvaxxed Yankees and Mets players, he might also want to re-instate the 1,430 city workers who were fired a month ago as a show of good faith. Because it’s not fair that they are out of jobs simply because they had the misfortune of being born without the ability to hit a baseball 400 feet.