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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is right to shame NBA anti-vaxxers

Opposing vaccinations isn’t smart or brave — it’s literally dead wrong. 

A recent Rolling Stone report sheds light on a powerful faction of anti-science NBA players who oppose mandatory vaccinations and other Covid safety requirements in the league. 

The report found that Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, vice president of the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association union, is among a group of holdouts stubbornly refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Irving’s anti-vaccination stance is troubling for the league because he’s a star player for a team in New York, where professional athletes must be vaccinated to play indoors without special exemptions. According to Rolling Stone, Irving’s influential role in the players union also complicates the league’s vaccination efforts because he’s floating coronavirus conspiracy theories. 

From the report: 

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.

In the report, Irving’s aunt suggested that he could miss every third game this season to evade Covid restrictions in New York. Skipping games to avoid health safety measures would, of course, be his right. However, his refusal isn’t merely a personal choice. His embrace of misinformation — particularly race-based misinformation — is harmful given his prominent position in the players union, and that’s why it deserves to be widely condemned. 

When powerful people use their platforms to speak about Black people or ostensibly act on our behalf, scrutiny is required. And when Irving suggests that a lifesaving vaccine is a racist, satanic supercomputer, he is not to be taken seriously — especially when he’s a known conspiracy theorist.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an activist and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, denounced the spread of Covid misinformation among players in a statement to 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,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

“What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts,” he added. “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?”

Already, there are signs that Irving’s opposition to vaccines and health protocol has had uptake. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, denounced the Covid conspiracies.Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

Jonathan Isaac, a player for the Orlando Magic who is unvaccinated, grew distrustful of vaccines and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, after having watched Donald Trump’s news conferences and “studying Black history,” according to Rolling Stone. (For the record, Trump has been vaccinated.)

From the report: 

“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.”

No, not “kudos to him.” And no kudos for Isaac (who apparently watches Trump news conferences in his spare time), either. Foolish opinions aren’t commendable simply because they are held.

If Irving or Isaac had spent any time in true study, they’d know that Black mistreatment by the health care system most often takes the forms of neglect and denial of coverage — not the conspiratorial plots in their imaginations.

Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.

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