NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slammed the league’s vaccine refusers for endangering teammates, and said the players should be banned.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” Abdul-Jabbar told Rolling Stone recently. “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, the league’s all-time leading scorer, appeared on CNN (see the clip above) Monday to discuss the matter after two star players, the Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins, mostly evaded questions about their vaccine status on media day. Both play for teams in cities that require vaccination proof indoors, jeopardizing their chance to play home games.
CNN’s Don Lemon ran a clip of Irving, who was not allowed to attend media day with teammates due to protocols, saying it’s a “private” matter. That prompted Abdul-Jabbar to reply: “He’s hiding behind procedure here. Either you understand what’s going on and you’re going to do the right thing. Or you don’t understand what’s going on and you’re going to continue to create all this confusion with your stance.”
Asked by Lemon if holdouts should be “let go,” the former Lakers star said they should be disciplined. “I don’t think they are behaving like good teammates or good citizens,” he said. He called COVID-19 a war and “masks and vaccines — they are the weapons we use to fight this war.”
Reports estimate that 90% of the players are vaccinated.
“What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts,” Abdul-Jabbar said to Rolling Stone. “Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
In his own essay on newsletter platform Substack, Abdul-Jabbar also expressed frustration with athletes who say they need to do more research. “This position only perpetuates the stereotype of the dumb jock who’s only in sports for the money,” he wrote. “It dehumanizes the victims as nothing more than political fodder.”
He again called on the NBA to mandate vaccines.
“Players are free to choose not to get vaccinated, but they should have the courage of their moral convictions to sit out the season, sustained in the righteousness of their choice. They’ve already proven they are not team players,” he wrote.
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