Here at The Root, I’ve written extensively about the inevitable showdown between the NBA and players who refuse to get vaccinated, local coronavirus guidelines in cities like San Francisco and New York City that will prohibit unvaccinated NBA players from playing in home games, and how COVID-19 has impacted members of the NBA community. But what I haven’t written anything about is a bombshell report that Rolling Stone was kind enough to drop this weekend that includes some strong quotes from one Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” the NBA legend told Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
I meannnnnnnn, he ain’t lying. There have been reports for months about emergency rooms being packed with unvaccinated people; the same unvaccinated people who could potentially avoid going to the hospital entirely if they just took the damn vaccine instead of receiving emergency medical care from the same medical experts they claimed they didn’t believe in the first fucking place. During a recent press conference, President Biden also claimed that unvaccinated Americans are hindering economic growth, costing our country jobs, and putting an unnecessary strain on our healthcare system.
He ain’t lying, either.
What makes Rolling Stone’s report particularly interesting, aside from Abdul-Jabbar’s quotes, is that it not only explores how extensively the COVID-19 misinformation campaign has spread throughout the NBA but it confirms the worst kept secret in the league: Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status.
Kyrie’s affinity for believing that the world is flat and other ridiculous conspiracy theories is well-documented, so it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise that he has some...questionable beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine—many of which have been peddled by right-wing lunatics since this whole thing started.
From Rolling Stone:
Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.
There are also players like the Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac—who has been vocal in his disapproval of the Black Lives Matter movement and who may or may not be a Trumper—who believe that unvaccinated players are suffering an “injustice” and are being unfairly vilified and bullied.
He rejects the NBA’s proposal for a vaccine mandate and social distancing for players like him during team travel: “You can play on the same court. We can touch the same ball. We can bump chests. We can do all those things on the court. And then when it comes to being on the bus, we have to be in different parts of the bus? To me, it doesn’t seem logically consistent. If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Let me make this abundantly clear: If Kyrie misses every Nets home game because of his refusal to get vaccinated, Brooklyn doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning an NBA championship this season. The same goes for the Golden State Warriors, who are locked in a similar stalemate with Andrew Wiggins over the vaccine.
We’re in for an interesting NBA season this year and it hasn’t even started yet.