OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Get vaccinated, get a negative test, or you can’t come. That’s the message from the Oklahoma City Thunder to fans. As one can imagine, fan reaction is mixed.
“So, as we look at bringing thousands of people into the building starting in October, we want to make sure we’re mitigating the risk of COVID-19 spreading or people contracting it at the games,” said Dan Mahoney, Vice President of Corporate Communications. “We want our fans to be here. We want to return to the joy of Thunder basketball in-game experience, but we also have to be safe.”
Last year, fans weren’t allowed at games because of the pandemic. They’re now welcome back to the Paycom Center, but they will be required to show proof of full or partial COVID vaccination, or a negative test taken within 72 hours prior to the game.
The game entry policy will remain in effect through at least the first 12 games of the preseason and regular season at Paycom Center (Oct. 4-Nov. 26) and will also be in effect for the preseason game on Oct. 14 at BOK Center in Tulsa. The policy will be constantly reviewed based on the status of COVID cases in Oklahoma.
Fans will have several options to show proof of vaccination or test results as they enter Paycom Center. Options include uploading vaccination cards and test results to the Thunder Mobile App or a special website that will be available which will allow fans to show documentation via their mobile phones. Printed or digital photos of CDC vaccination cards or test results will also be accepted.
Many Thunder fans support the health and safety protocols.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea, so [COVID] won’t spread and let everyone be safe and have fun at the games,” said Erann Burns.
“I think it’s something that they should do, most definitely,” said Howard Ford Jr. “I would feel mostly safe knowing that someone next to me has been vaccinated. I think it’s a good relief of conscience for myself to enjoy the game.”
Others feel violated by the protocols.
“I feel like it could be an infringement on people’s rights, forcing them to get a vaccine that they don’t know what it’s going to do. I don’t know if the vaccine is keeping us safe,” said Brandi Barnett.
Tazjnea Tennyson said she’s against the vaccine overall, let alone it being required to go to a Thunder game.
“If I’m against it, I’m against it,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to feel pressured or forced into doing something that I just simply do not want to do, that I don’t feel is right for me and my family.”
The Thunder believe the protocols are fair and will help move Oklahoma City out of the pandemic.
“The reason that we really want to focus on vaccination, obviously, is that’s what’s going to lead us out of COVID,” Mahoney said. “We don’t view this as a vaccine mandate. What this is is a series of options you have to come to our game but allow the environment to be safe.”
The Thunder also strongly recommend fans wear face masks while in the arena. Kids 11 and under will be required to wear them since they aren’t yet able to be vaccinated.
Go to okcthunder.com/healthprotocol for more information on the Thunder’s health protocol.