Major League Baseball players who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be allowed to enter Canada to play games because of the country’s current coronavirus restrictions.
Unvaccinated players also won’t be paid while their team is in Canada, according to The New York Times. As part of the recent collective bargaining agreement between the MLB and the players’ union, players who can’t enter Canada because of their vaccination status will temporarily go on the league’s restricted list for salary and service time.
“It’s a concern,” Tony Clark, head of the union, told reporters on Friday.
“As everyone knows, we appreciate and respect the decisions that are made, particularly when in regard to player health and community health,” he said. “But that is an issue, as one in the pandemic itself, that we’re navigating domestically, that we’re going to have to continue to try to work through here moving forward.”
Current Canadian border rules don’t allow unvaccinated foreign visitors to enter the country without special exemptions. A special status for unvaccinated athletes, which allowed them to cross the border in 2021, expired in January, the newspaper reported.
With the new policy, some players may have to sit out key games against the Toronto Blue Jays, who open the season at home on April 8 against the Texas Rangers. The agreement covering unvaccinated players and travel to Canada expires at the end of the 2022 season, according to The Associated Press.
Vaccination rates have steadily increased in the MLB, the Times reported, with about 84% of players and staff members fully vaccinated as of late last season. But a handful of teams haven’t hit the full vaccination threshold of 85%, which allows for loosened restrictions.
On Sunday, Aaron Boone, the manager of the New York Yankees, said he was concerned about his players not being able to play in Canada. The Yankees often play against the Blue Jays.
“We still have a few guys at least who are not vaccinated,” he told reporters during spring training in Florida.