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Philadelphia 76ers forward Matisse Thybulle has been declared ineligible for at least Games 3 and 4 of the upcoming playoff series with the Toronto Raptors because of Canada‘s restrictions on foreign travelers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Thybulle, 25, revealed Sunday that he’s received just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

‘I’m not fully vaccinated,’ Thybulle said after the 76ers clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a win over the Detroit Pistons. ‘This was a decision I made a long time ago. I thought a lot about what I’d say here. Essentially, I made this choice and I thought I could keep it to myself, I could keep it private, but people are always going to wonder why.’

Thybulle is barred from Canada because unvaccinated foreign nationals are currently prohibited from entering the country and limited exemptions to the rule no longer apply to professional athletes.

That not only precludes him from playing in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto, but potentially Game 6 as well, should the first-round series go that far.

His situation first became known last week when he was suddenly listed as ‘ineligible to play’ on the NBA injury report on Philadelphia’s most recent trip to Toronto.

When asked about his decision, Thybulle said he was raised ‘in a holistic household’ that believed in Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors. In fact, Thybulle’s late mother Elizabeth was a naturopath prior to her death from leukemia in 2015.

‘I didn’t see any benefits outweighing what I could seek from alternative medicine,’ he said, when asked about his refusal to get the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Thybulle stressed that he was not raised to be ‘anti-vax’ while growing up around Sydney, Australia and Seattle, Washington, but became concerned about the COVID-19 vaccines when he learned they’re not 100 percent effective.

‘It got to the point last year during the playoffs where I did actually consider getting vaccinated and went through with getting the first shot, the first dose,’ he said. ‘At that point, I was under the impression that getting vaccinated meant that I could not get the disease and transmit it to other people.

‘And I felt like if I’m going to be a part of society, in the position I’m in, I need to do what’s right for the greater good. That argument of the greater good held a lot of weight for me. As things progressed, as this virus has changed many different ways, it just showed through the science that that wasn’t the case anymore — that even while being vaccinated, you could still spread the disease.’

‘So for me and my reasoning, it felt like getting vaccinated was not something that I needed to do to protect other people. … With that being considered and the holistic background of my upbringing — and just the way I view medicine in general — it felt like I was secure in treating myself … not treating myself, but going to the doctors that I have to treat COVID if I did get it. And in the case that I did, I was able to go about it in my holistic way, and I’m able to sit here today healthy and OK because of it.’

The 25-year-old was a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team last season and finished this season with a team-high 114 steals in 65 games (49 starts).

Coach Doc Rivers has been a staunch advocate of his players receiving COVD-19 shots and a booster.

‘If you can get it, you should get it,’ he said earlier this season. ‘[We should send] any good message we can send about it in doing the right thing.’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in December the league was about 97 percent vaccinated and almost 65 percent had been boosted.

But the vaccine became a flashpoint in the NBA this season when Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving refused to get it. The decision left him ineligible to play in home games until late last month — 75 games into the season. Irving said he was ‘standing for freedom.’

Thybulle’s absence in Toronto should give veteran Danny Green an increased role, but will weaken an already thin bench. The Sixers were the No. 1 seed in last year’s playoffs but lost three games at home and dropped a seven-game, second-round series to Atlanta.

NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid and James Harden were expected to lead them deep into this postseason, and while Thybulle wasn’t Philly’s most valuable player, he was valuable enough that his absence will be felt.

The Raptors won their season series against Philly 3-1.

‘Tisse feels a way about it. Shoot, I just tell him that I support him,’ guard Shake Milton said. ‘I know everybody else on this team supports him, and it’s kind of been the story of this season anyway this whole year. It’s just been next man up. I know we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be ready and everybody’s looking forward to it.’

Thybulle said he understood there are people inside the organization, as well as fans, who are upset and dismayed by his decision. He said his dad taught him to make the right decision for himself, as long as he understood the consequences.

‘I considered, deeply, all the different avenues, and of course, I’ve accepted that this could hurt money, contracts, reputation, but I felt like this was the right thing that I needed to do for myself,’ he said.

Thybulle isn’t the only unvaccinated NBA player. 

While roughly 95 percent of the league is vaccinated, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been among the most high-profile holdouts. The former top-overall draft pick was barred from playing home games due to New York City’s private sector vaccine mandate was lifted for athletes last month. 

Other prominent players like Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins and Washington’s Bradley Beal ultimately changed the minds after initially refusing to be vaccinated.  

Source: Daily Mail

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