It took 82 games, but the Eastern Conference playoff matchups are set.
The Sixers finished the season as the four seed and will take on the fifth-seeded Raptors. As of Jan. 15, Canada began requiring individuals to be fully vaccinated before entering the country — that means at least 14 days having passed from the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or from a single-dose vaccine.
As we learned ahead of the Sixers’ loss in Toronto last Thursday, Matisse Thybulle is not fully vaccinated and is therefore ineligible to play games in Canada. That means the defensive standout will miss Games 3 and 4 and a potential Game 6, if necessary.
After the Sixers’ win over the Pistons in the regular-season finale, Thybulle was given the opportunity to explain his decision. Thybulle received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine ahead of the postseason last year, but chose not get a second dose.
Given the gravity and polarizing nature of the topic, we’re choosing to publish all of Thybulle’s comments so there’s nothing lost in translation or taken out of context.
On why he is ineligible to play in Toronto and his decision to not get fully vaccinated:
“I’m not fully vaccinated. This was a decision I made a long time ago. ... Essentially, I made this choice and I thought I could keep it to myself, I can keep it private, but people are always gonna wonder why. I was raised in a holistic household where ‘anti-vax’ is not like a term that was ever used. It’s a weird term that’s kind of been thrown around to just label people, but we grew up with like Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors. Just with that upbringing, coming into this situation, I felt like I had a solid foundation of medical resources that can serve me beyond what this vaccine could do for me. As things escalated, and as this situation has played out, I’ve obviously had to reconsider and look at it differently. To that point, 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, because at that point, I was under the impression that getting vaccinated would mean 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 to the science that that wasn’t the case anymore — that even while being vaccinated, you could still spread the disease. So for me, my reasoning, it felt like getting vaccinated was not something that I needed to do to protect other people, and was something that I would have to do to protect myself. With that being considered and like the holistic background of my upbringing and just the way I view medicine in general, I felt like I was secure in ... going to the doctors that I have to treat COVID if I get it and in the case that I did, I was able to go about it in my holistic way. I mean, I’m able to sit here today healthy and OK because of it.”
On if anyone if the organization tried to talk him into getting fully vaccinated:
“It was more so suggested and offered to me. It was never forced or required, just encouraged.
On communicating to his teammates that he would be ineligible for games in Toronto:
Yeah. I mean, that was really hard. Like I said, I made this decision a while ago where this situation I’m facing right now was not a factor. It wasn’t a part of any of the decision making because at the time I wouldn’t be available for my team. I would be available to play and not restricted in any way to do my job. And having had the stance I’ve had for almost a year now, I just felt like it couldn’t be something that I could be forced to do because of rules or regulation changes. And it just seemed like the right thing for me to just see it through. And unfortunately, the repercussions of that are going to be me missing games and not being there for my teammates. I’ve talked to them. Obviously from fans to coaches to front office to teammates, there are people who are upset and don’t understand but ultimately, I’ve been lucky enough to have them voice that they may disagree but they still support me in my decision making. With that being said, I’m still gonna be there and give 110 percent every time I’m available to be on the court.”
On how he’s feeling now that he knows the Sixers will be playing without him in Toronto:
“It sucks. It was not the outcome that I wanted. It’s always hard not to be available, whether you’re injured or whatnot. It’s hard to watch your guys go out there and fight without you, but I believe in them without me just as much as I believe in them with me. I think that we’ve got as good a chance as [anyone] to make a run to the championship and I trust these guys to take care of it when I can’t be on the court with them.”
On if he reconsidered his decision:
“There were points where — many, many points — where I had to stop and reconsider. But at the time of having to make my decision, the odds that I was working with were not 100 percent. So working with [a 50 percent chance of playing in Toronto], it’s just hard to commit to doing something that I felt like was not right for me based off of a potential that could turn out that I wouldn’t have to have done in the first place.”
On the long-term consequences that could result from his decision:
“One of the things my dad taught me growing up, he said, ‘You’re free to do whatever you want as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences of it.’ Like I said, 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 need to do for myself.”
On what he viewed as the downside of getting the second shot:
“My reasoning for getting it or not getting wasn’t really the downside. I just didn’t feel like it would benefit me. I didn’t see any benefits outweighing what I could seek from alternative medicine.”