In the summer of 2021, the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) negotiated a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the NBA providing for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination as condition of employment. Consistent with every federal vaccination program issued to date, a core provision of the LOA was an exemption for individuals who objected to mandatory vaccination based on sincerely held religious beliefs. The LOA further provided a pre-negotiated accommodation of the objectors’ unvaccinated status consisting of masking, daily COVID-19 testing, and social distancing. In negotiating the vaccination LOA, the NBRA assumed a leadership role within organized labor eschewed by unions in general, and the NBA Players Association in particular. The NBRA expended its political capital in promoting the LOA among its members, including those with religion-based objections to vaccination. The Association achieved ratification assisted by its assurances that the NBA would honor the LOA’s exception provisions. No good deed goes unpunished….
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