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Recruiting an all-star cast

People wait in line to enter a COVID-19

People wait in line to enter a COVID-19 vaccination site at Citi Field on Feb. 10. Credit: Getty Images/David Dee Delgado

How's this for an Opening Day pregame ceremony:

The players stand along the baselines. An enormous American flag drapes across the outfield. Mr. Met sits on the pitcher's mound while a first responder who's a season ticket-holder trots out, holding a T-shirt cannon decorated as an enormous syringe. In front of thousands of fans and many more watching on television, Mr. Met gets "vaccinated" against COVID-19, as players appearing on the jumbo screen encourage fans to do the same.

The New York Mets will hold their home opener Thursday, but unfortunately there are no such plans, so far.

As vaccination opened to all New Yorkers 16 and older Tuesday, and President Joe Biden announced that all adults nationwide will be eligible by April 19, a renewed and targeted effort to encourage vaccination must start. The best and fastest way to fill ballparks and hockey arenas, bring back concerts and Broadway shows and return to normal, is for most New Yorkers to take the vaccine as soon as possible.

Promoting that goal must be a team effort — from elected officials, actors, musicians and, yes, athletes. Their support could influence sports fans, concertgoers and others who need extra motivation to say "yes" to the vaccine.

The Mets and New York Islanders, among other teams, need to make a public push for their Long Island fans: "Let's go, Pfizer." Or, "It's J & J for the win!"

To date, some Mets players have focused on "personal choice," rather than promoting the shot. That reluctance isn't helping the cause.

The Islanders also could step up their game. Coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello have gotten the vaccine, and say they'll encourage players to do so. But this is a team that has written jingles and hung banners advocating for a new building and a public referendum. It should do the same now.

More professional athletes and teams should follow the lead of Mets star Pete Alonso, who participated in a Major League Baseball pro-vaccine advertisement; former Yankees great Mariano Rivera, who said of the vaccine, "You shouldn't be afraid"; and New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who with other team personnel was videoed getting the shot as part of a public service announcement.

If MLB can take a stand against Georgia's new voting laws by moving its All-Star Game, every team and player can take a public position supporting COVID-19 vaccination. As incentive, MLB and the National Basketball Association offer looser protocols if 85% of team personnel take the vaccine.

These teams are welcoming back fans, who need to show proof of vaccination — or a negative test result — to see a game. The Mets, Islanders and Yankees are playing at vaccination sites. If they and other area pro teams want to play before sold-out crowds, vaccination is the answer.

It's time to pull out every sports idiom. Play ball! Take the shot. And shout, "We Will, We Will, Vax You!"

— The editorial board

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