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    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

    NBA referees will all be vaccinated against the coronavirus this season.

    The NBA announced on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) that it has struck a deal with the National Basketball Referees Association on that requirement. Part of the referees' agreement with the NBA also says that those working games will receive booster shots once they become recommended.

    The NBRA voting on the issue took place earlier this week.

    "This agreement was a win-win," the NBRA said in a statement. "It will support the NBA's objective of creating a safer on-court environment and continuity of play while protecting the health and well-being of the referees."

    The referees also described the move as a "clear example of when labor and management work together for the common good of their collective business."

    The NBA's agreement with the referees was revealed one day after the league told its teams that anyone within close proximity — defined in most cases as being 15 feet — of players and referees will also have to be vaccinated. That mandate covers, among others, coaches, support staff traveling with teams, locker room attendants and those working at official scorer's tables in NBA arenas.

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    Referees may seek exemption

    Players are not required to be fully vaccinated, though many were last season after the league encouraged them to do so by agreeing to relax some health and safety protocols for those who were — including fewer mandated coronavirus tests, no quarantine requirements following contact tracing issues and more freedoms on road trips.

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    As is the case with team employees, any referees who have a documented medical or religious reason to not be vaccinated may seek an exemption. Without that exemption, any unvaccinated referee will not be eligible to work games, the NBA said.

    Referees have been dealing with enhanced safety measures since NBA play resumed in the restart bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida in July 2020, including having small cloth bags over their whistles to prevent the spewing of spittle and changes in how — and how often — they travel.

    NBA training camps open in late September.

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    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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