Out-of-town athletes and performers who appear on New York’s biggest stages would have to get the COVID vaccine just like those who call the city home, if a Manhattan state senator’s new bill to address the jab disparity becomes law.
Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill on Tuesday to block the exemption, following THE CITY’s reporting on the double standard laid bare when anti-vaccine-mandate comedian Joe Rogan played Madison Square Garden over the weekend.
The legislation, called the Fairly Applying Individual Requirements (FAIR) Vaccine Mandates Act, would bar local governments from “discriminating in enforcement of vaccine requirements” at entertainment venues based on where performers and athletes live or primarily work.
The city’s dual policy for residents and non-resident performers and pro athletes has “no basis in science and creates confusion about local vaccine requirements,” the act reads.
Indoor stadiums like the Garden and the Barclays Center both require ticket holders to have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
City Hall mandates require performers who live in the city and professional athletes representing local “home teams” to get their shots. But traveling entertainers, like stand-up comedians and ballplayers from out of town get a free pass.
“If New Yorkers attend an entertainment or sporting event they must provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccine. But New York City grants special privileges to out-of-town anti-vaxxers like Joe Rogan and NBA star Bradley Beal,” Hoylman told THE CITY.
“Our message is simple: Get jabbed or get outta town,” said the lawmaker, whose district includes parts of the Lower East Side, the Upper West Side and Lower Manhattan.
He’s among roughly 5% of NBA players who remain unvaccinated, according to the league’s recent report.
Hoylman’s legislation also notes that a residency-based vaccine requirement “will also put local sports teams at a competitive disadvantage.”
While an unvaccinated out of town player like Beal can play at Madison Square Garden this upcoming weekend, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been prevented from practicing or playing with his team.
Sitting out home games due to failure to meet a city’s COVID rules comes with steep costs. Irving, who’s under contract for $34.9 million this year, will forfeit roughly $381,000 for each missed game. The Nets will play the Charlotte Hornets in their first regular season home game at Barclays Center on Oct. 24.
Last Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio told THE CITY that the traveling-performer exemption was a “different reality than someone who works regularly in a location.”
On CNN, De Blasio urged Irving to get the vaccine.
Laura Feyer, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said on Tuesday that the city was proud of its vaccination program.
“It’s been an incredible success so far,” Feyer added. “We will review the [state] legislation.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents parts of the city’s West Side, including Madison Square Garden, did not return a request for comment.
‘A Different Set of Rules’
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer previously told THE CITY that it was “unfortunate” that out-of-town performers “get to play by a different set of rules than everyone else when it comes to being vaccinated.”
For the U.S. Open, which wrapped in Corona, Queens last month, the Mayor’s Office abruptly reversed its original policy and ultimately required all attendees to be vaccinated, following reporting by THE CITY. Athletes playing in the tourney were not required to get the shot.
Meanwhile on Broadway, a production of Aladdin remains closed a week after a COVID-19 outbreak canceled shows. Performances are slated to resume after Oct. 12. Cast, crew and audiences at Broadway shows are required to be vaccinated. Audiences members must wear masks.