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Major League Baseball players who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus will not be allowed to enter Canada to play games against the Toronto Blue Jays because of the country’s restrictions, and they will not be paid while the team is abroad as part of the sport’s new labor agreement.
The current Canadian border restrictions do not allow unvaccinated foreign visitors to enter the country without special exemptions. And a special status issued by the Canadian government for unvaccinated athletes, which allowed them to cross last year, ended in January.
As part of a recently-struck collective bargaining agreement that will allow for the 2022 season to begin, M.L.B. and the players’ union agreed that players who cannot enter Canada because of their vaccination status will temporarily go on the league’s restricted list, where salary and service time are not awarded, according the league. (Service time is what determines players’ eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency.)
“It’s a concern,” Tony Clark, the head of the union, said on Friday. “As everyone knows, we appreciate and respect the decisions that are made, particularly when in regard to player health and community health.”
Because of the new policy, some players may have to sit out key games against the Blue Jays, who open the season on April 8 at home at the Rogers Centre.
As of late last season, a handful of M.L.B.’s 30 teams had not hit a full vaccination threshold of 85 percent, which allowed for loosened league pandemic restrictions. The Boston Red Sox, which had a significant virus outbreak last season, were the only one of the 10 teams in the postseason last year that had not hit that vaccination mark.
Aaron Boone, the manager of the Yankees, a division rival and frequent opponent of the Blue Jays, told reporters on Sunday that he was concerned about his players not being able to play in Canada. “We still have a few guys at least who are not vaccinated,” he told reporters in Tampa, Fla., where the team hosts spring training.
Despite initial resistance from many players last year, the vaccination numbers steadily rose in M.L.B. As of late last season, about 84 percent of all players and designated staff members were fully vaccinated. Some team executives were openly frustrated with their players’ reluctance to get vaccinated.
The vaccination rates are notably higher in other professional leagues, such as the N.B.A. and N.H.L., both of which have teams based in Canada.