Matt Bush, FISM News
Any Major League Baseball (MLB) player who has not been vaccinated will also not be allowed to play baseball in Canada, the home country of the Toronto Blue Jays. According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that was signed just last week, a player who chooses to remain unvaccinated will not be paid and will not receive service time for games missed due to vaccine issues.
According to Sports Illustrated, “The Canadian federal government currently isn’t allowing unvaccinated travelers to cross the border, except under special circumstances, which takes the decision out of MLB’s hands.” At one point, Canada issued a travel exemption so that professional athletes could enter the country if they abided by stricter rules, but that exemption was revoked on January 15.
Players who are not vaccinated will be put on the “restricted list” when their team plays in Toronto, which means no pay and no service time. The restricted list is usually used for players who cannot perform due to non-baseball reasons or because of issues with the law. Placing a player on the restricted list for not being vaccinated sets a new standard that baseball has not yet seen.
Baseball columnist for Sportsnet, Shi Davidi, tweeted that many players were against the Canadian restriction but relented and signed the CBA to get the season started almost on time.
This was a significant discussion point as players considered CBA yesterday. We're told a few teams took serious issue with the matter, but ultimately relented.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) March 11, 2022
Major League Baseball has been in the news recently for other negative publicity as the owners imposed a lockout that was lifted 99 days later after the player’s union signed the CBA. For a while it looked like the MLB season would be pushed back indefinitely, but instead the season will start only one week later and the full schedule will be played.
In terms of popularity, MLB lags behind the NBA and NFL, and that can be seen even in how the three leagues are dealing with COVID. According to Outkick the Coverage, the NFL has lifted all COVID protocols, and the NBA has followed suit. Then, there is baseball in Toronto and the fact that players will not even be paid if they miss games because of their vaccination status.
These conditions are especially significant for teams that play in the AL East with the Blue jays, including the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays. These teams play multiple series with Toronto and could be adversely affected by players who make the medical decision to not be vaccinated.
Last year, MLB instituted a rule calling for 85% of “Tier 1” employees of each team to be vaccinated in order to have “relaxed protocols,” including rescinding max mandates in the dugout, more mobility on away trips, and other freedoms. Tier 1 employees, according to USA Today, include, “players, managers, coaches, team physicians, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff.” The majority of MLB teams have reached this threshold, but at least six teams still have not.
As of September 2021, the Red Sox were one of the teams that had not reached the 85% threshold for vaccinations, and they both reside in the AL East and are expected to be a contender for the Division crown.
The Blue Jays begin their season at home with a series against the Texas Rangers.