Danny Ainge says ‘a few’ Celtics players declined COVID-19 vaccine

"The team has been vaccinated, the people that chose to."

Danny Ainge Celtics
Danny Ainge watches the Celtics-Wizards game in January, 2021. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge gave an update on the team’s COVID-19 vaccination status during a Thursday radio interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich.”

“Yeah, the team has been vaccinated, the people that chose to,” said Ainge. “We’ve had a few people on staff that didn’t want to, and a few players that didn’t want to. But yeah, they have had that opportunity.”

Asked if he knew why some players chose to not get the vaccine, Ainge indicated that he did, but that he wouldn’t share specifics.

“They all have different reasons as to why they didn’t want to get it,” Ainge explained. “Some didn’t feel like we have enough information. Some feel like they just don’t do any vaccinations. They don’t do flu shots, they don’t believe in putting the poison in their bodies, and they just don’t feel comfortable doing it. And the same person doesn’t really take anti-inflammatories or aspirin or anything either, like that’s just how he is.”


The CDC has endorsed COVID-19 vaccines as “safe and effective.”

As Ainge noted, NBA COVID-19 guidelines require at least 85 percent of players and staff to be vaccinated before various protocols can be lifted. Boston, according to Ainge, has yet to reach that threshold.

Still, given the ongoing requirements for those who aren’t vaccinated, the Celtics executive noted how it might lead to an increase in vaccinations as players tire of continual COVID-19 testing.

“We had one player that after they got back from the road trip said, ‘You know what? I’m kind of tired of this point-of-care testing, so I think I will get vaccinated,'” said Ainge. “Maybe there will be others, but we can’t force them and everybody has their own beliefs in this process.”

Asked how the Celtics compare to other NBA teams in terms of the percentage of vaccinations, Ainge said he believes Boston is not overly different from others.

“I don’t think the Celtics are an outlier,” Ainge replied. “There are a lot teams that have had much less success of getting people vaccinated. I think it’s just part of our society. I mean we have a lot people that are choosing to not get vaccinated. Many, and everybody probably has different reasons. But there’s a lot of fear out there about the vaccines.”


More than 2 million Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with another million having received at least one shot of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines (which require two shots for full vaccination).

As of April 19, all Massachusetts residents over the age of 16 are eligible to get vaccinated.

The Celtics have had by far the most “player-days missed due to COVID-19 protocols” in the NBA this season, according to data compiled by Fansure. Boston players have missed a combined 162 days, far more than even the Dallas Mavericks (who rank second with 118 days missed).

Marcus Smart tested positive for COVID-19 in March, 2020. Jayson Tatum has admitted that he now uses an inhaler before games after his own battle with COVID-19 in January. And Boston guard Evan Fournier is currently working his way back after being out since April 6 due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Robert Williams, Tristan Thompson, and Romeo Langford have all dealt with COVID-19 this season, too.

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