Paul O'Neill couldn't be in the YES Network booth (around other vaccinated broadcasters) for the 2021 and 2022 seasons because he was unvaccinated ... but he was permitted to attend his number retirement ceremony in front of tens of thousands of fans (and many others with him on the field) at Yankee Stadium this past August.
Visiting players who are unvaccinated can play at Yankee Stadium and come into contact with other players/staff/personnel, but on the day O'Neill's number was retired, he couldn't visit the broadcast booth or come into contact with other Yankees in attendance.
Now, with Opening Day a little over a month away, the YES Network has either lifted its vaccine mandate (the likely scenario) or O'Neill, after refusing the vaccine for over two years, finally relented (probably not). He'll reportedly be back in the broadcast booth for the 2023 season.
And we just can't stop laughing because the New York Post framed it as the end of a "vaccine standoff." We're just picturing Hal Steinbrenner with a syringe full of the double Pfizer dose and O'Neill wielding a wooden bat to protect his freedom.
"Come on, Paul. We need you in the booth. This can't go on any longer."
*O'Neill, seething, pictures Steinbrenner's head as a water cooler. Cut to black.*
Paul O'Neill will be back calling Yankees games in YES booth
Given O'Neill was joyfully broadcasting games remotely from his Ohio home and never publicly commented in opposition to the network or Yankees, it seems like this was a good old fashioned "thanks but no thanks" situation, and a solution quickly came to fruition because removing O'Neill from YES broadcasts simply was never an option given his popularity among the fanbase.
Newsday reported the news on O'Neill, but with no further details outside of the YES Network "loosening" its vaccine policy. No in-depth analysis of the "standoff"? What a shame. Who escorted O'Neill out of the building when he tried to bust down the doors? Who did he land a left hook on before getting tossed to the curb and relegated to a green screen in his basement?
The Yankees and YES Network had legitimate concerns at the onset of the pandemic and more than a year later. They employ a lot of middle-aged (or older) individuals who were either at-risk candidates for COVID-19 or close to it. When everything was still unknown with the virus, vaccine mandates hardly seemed out of the question.
But keeping O'Neill from the broadcast team/organization in 2022 when the players didn't need to be vaccinated? When opposing organizations could waltz into Yankee Stadium without the same requirements? None of it made sense. All anybody asked for was for less contradictory behavior when it came to COVID-19 and the vaccine mandates, which turned into a touchy subject for many.
Regardless, we're just happy the standoff ended without anybody getting hurt. That was a close one.