Basketball: NZ Breakers part ways with star Tai Webster over COVID-19 anti-vax stance

NZ Breakers have terminated the contract of guard Tai Webster "by mutual consent", over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Webster, 26, joined the Breakers at the start of the 2020/21 season and re-signed on a two-year deal in July.

But Webster's anti-vax stance has seen him cut loose by the club, with the team preparing to spend the 2021/22 ANBL season travelling between Australia and New Zealand.

The Victorian State Government has released strict COVID-19 protocols that limit activities within its borders to fully vaccinated people. 

"We had an off-season plan where we knew that getting our guys vaccinated would be a priority," Breakers owner Matt Walsh tells Newshub.

"It was clear that Tai had some reservations, which is perfectly reasonable and is his right. We worked through the process now for the last few months. Given that it's September and we're due for a November or December start date, it just got to a point where we needed an answer, yes or no.

"Once it was clear that Tai wasn't going to get vaccinated, it was just an honest conversation... It's a very slim chance that he's going to be able to go back and forth, even when the trans-Tasman bubble opens. 

"So we just said it was probably best we go our separate ways. It's best for both sides, it was clear Tai wasn't going to get vaccinated.

"For us, the reality is we play in an Australian league, and in order to play in that league, we have to do the most travel of any team in the league. 

"They've made it clear that the only way we're going to travel is if we're double jabbed."

Walsh insists that the move was entirely mutual, with Webster and his representatives accepting the consequences of not being vaccinated before the start of the new season.

"Tai was very upfront and honest, he said 'I'm not getting vaccinated, I don't think this is best for me.'

"We said 'this is very clear, you won't be able to play, you won't be able to travel.'

"We worked with Tai's representatives and we just felt like it was best if we part ways."

Walsh also confirmed that Webster will not be able to join another ANBL side for the next two years, until what would have been the expiration of the Breakers contract he'd signed earlier this year.

Webster's older brother, Corey, also came under fire last month, after incorrectly tweeting that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine killed almost as many people as the virus.

"There's been 26 deaths from COVID in NZ and our government website shows there's been 22 deaths from the vaccine," Corey Webster wrote. 

"The vaccine has killed almost as many people as COVID and they want us to just get this vaccine without doing any due diligence?! How does this make sense?" 

Corey Webster's tweet came just days after his Breakers contract was terminated by mutual consent.

Newshub has approached Tai Webster for comment.