The New York Knicks announced on May 28 that if the team advances to the next round of the NBA playoffs, it would offer tickets exclusively to fans vaccinated against the CCP virus and require proof of vaccination for entry.
The team revealed the requirements alongside an announcement that Game 5 of its playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks has sold out.
The first game of the Knicks-Hawks series drew 15,000 fans. The Knicks expanded their attendance capacity to vaccinated fans for the second game, attracting more than 16,000 attendees.
“The two games mark the largest indoor crowds to gather in New York since the start of the pandemic. Given the enthusiastic response to vaccination requirements, the team also announced that, should they advance past round one, tickets will be sold exclusively to fully-vaccinated individuals,” the team said in a statement.
The team said vaccinated people made up 90 percent of the attendance for the first two games. Madison Square Garden, the team’s home arena in Manhattan, followed New York guidelines for vaccinated people, allowing them to be seated without masks or social distancing. Masks were still required for unvaccinated adults and children.
People entering the arena for the first two games were required to show proof of vaccination. Those without proof were segregated to a special section where masks and social distancing were required.
The team’s vaccination requirement for all ticket sales should it advance to the next round of the playoffs, combined with the need to prove vaccination status, amounts to a de facto vaccine passport system.
The team’s statement did mention an exemption for people who acquired immunity from being previously infected with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, 95 percent of the people with prior COVID-19 infections had durable immunity to the CCP virus lasting up to eight months.
The Knicks’ May 26 game against the Hawks was marred by a fan who spat at Atlanta point guard Trae Young. The fan was indefinitely banned from Madison Square Garden.
“We apologize to Trae and the entire Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue. We have turned the information over to the appropriate authorities,” the Knicks said in a statement.
That incident followed Knicks fans chanting expletives at Young throughout the first game of the series.
The Knicks haven’t won an NBA championship since 1973.