Every sports league has had to find ways to cope with the attempt to organize professional sports in the midst of a global pandemic. Concessions have been made, plans changed – all in an attempt to keep the games going while ensuring the protection of players and fans. Intelligence prevailed when the NFL and NFLPA finally found common ground on how to proceed in 2021. Now the NBA is in the midst of its own negotiations and the league is on the verge of collapsing at because of that.
There’s no point in trying to mince words on the matter or dancing around what’s going on. NBAPA Vice President Kyrie Irving, who has always had a penchant for conspiracy theories, is now in a position of power to help decide the biggest health problem the league has ever faced. While about 90 percent of the league has been vaccinated, a loud anti-vaxx cabal is using the NBA / NBAPA negotiations like a soapbox to peddle its disinformation, and no one is stepping in to stop it.
On August 7, an NBAPA meeting was held to discuss the league’s desire to ensure that players are 100 percent vaccinated by the start of the NBA season. It was an important topic the union needed to discuss, but there was widespread reluctance to even talk about it. Based on a play by Matt Sullivan in Rolling Stone, while the majority of NBA players who have yet to be vaccinated are guided by misplaced skepticism, a small but noisy minority of anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists are pushing proceedings forward by killing conversations.
As NBA media days kicked off this week, Irving was among those dancing on the subject of vaccination when asked directly, it’s simply an effort to preserve his public image. Instead of accepting the damage he does, Irving touts the “personal choice” line, which has been over-repeated by vaccine skeptics as a justification for not receiving the jab. Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that the choice not to get vaccinated is a societal choice, not a personal choice, due to the myriad of impacts it has on those around us.
Meanwhile, Bradley Beal is here peddling the idea that NBA players are getting sick from the vaccine, although there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case.
Bradley Beal on his battle with COVID-19, which cost him the Olympics: “I didn’t get sick at all. I lost my scent. That’s all.”
Beal adds that no one will be talking about the adverse effects of the vaccine and its impact on the health of players. No NBA player has run out of time because of the vaccine.
– Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) September 27, 2021
On the bright side, Beal can’t smell his own bullshit.
A recent tactic by the anti-vaxx contingent has been to try to seek a religious exemption as a way to avoid getting the vaccine. Andrew Wiggins was denied the NBA’s vaccine exemption on Friday, meaning he must either comply with orders mandated by the San Francisco Department of Health or not play any home games this season. .
A similar arrangement in New York will prevent Irving from playing in Brooklyn this season, and there is no evidence that he is considering getting shot.
Jonathan Isaac of the Magic, one of the players who chose to stand up during the national anthem inside the NBA bubble and not side with players supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, is also fiercely. against vaccination, citing his religious beliefs as a key factor. He told Rolling Stone:
“If you are vaccinated, in other places you must still wear the mask. It’s like, ‘OK, so what’s the point of the mask necessarily?’ Isaac continues. “And if Kyrie says that about his executive position in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Let’s be very clear: wearing masks is not a huge hidden secret warranting discussion. It’s not Scooby and the gang walking around in the Mystery Machine to solve another groovy mystery. The subject of masks was discussed, again, and again, and again since the start of the pandemic. Saluting someone for “asking the tough questions” is simply acknowledging that you haven’t done any research on the subject.
- Vaccinated people can still spread the Covid
- The more Covid spreads, the higher the risk of mutation into more harmful variants against which vaccines may not offer protection
- Children who cannot be vaccinated and those who are immunocompromised deserve consideration and care, making masks the bare minimum that society can do to help protect them
Isaac’s choice is to ignore science and put his faith in God. He has every right to do so. This right does not extend to allow him to play in the NBA with an impact on his career. In addition, invoking religion as a defense is a particularly insidious rhetorical technique that positions religion and science as opposing forces. This is something that particularly frustrated Enes Kanter, who is a devout Muslim and also in favor of players who are forced to get vaccinated.
“If a guy doesn’t get the vaccine because of his religion, I feel like we’re in a time when religion and science have to go together,” he said. RS. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious people, I’m like, ‘It saves lives, so what’s more important than that?'”
Kanter plays for the Celtics, a franchise intimately aware of the risks of Covid. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, a 23-year-old with no previous health issues, still has symptoms of ‘long Covid’ forcing him to use an inhaler before games, despite contracting the virus in January 2021.
Karl-Anthony Towns, another healthy elite athlete who once faced the tragedy of losing his mother to the virus, told Sports Illustrated he lost 50 pounds after contracting Covid himself. Now, virus-ravaged players like Towns and Tatum are forced to sit still while decisions are made by those less informed.
Fighting takes center stage in the NBA, but the concern is that sane voices aren’t the loudest. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar does his part, explaining why it is so essential that current superstars lead the charge in tackling the public health crisis.
“This is why it is so shocking and disappointing to see so many people, especially people of color, treating the vaccination as if it was just a matter of personal preference, like ordering without onions on your burger at a delivery service. While I can understand the vaccine hesitation of those who have been historically marginalized and even abused by the health care system, enough scientific literature has been provided to the public to put this past behind us for now. Yes, you should never forget. These experiences should sharpen our critical thinking so as not to accept things blindly. But that doesn’t mean we blindly reject things. The drowning man doesn’t ask if a racist made the life jacket to keep him afloat, only that it works to save his life.
Kareem went on to say that “those who claim they need to do ‘more research’ are simply announcing that they haven’t done any research.” To go further, I would add that people who want to do “more research” specifically expect something, anything to support their biases, be it smart or not.
This is how we come to the point where many approved and supported medical journals are rejected in favor of one, which has not been corroborated, but supports an opposite view. This is how hundreds of millions of vaccinated people who have had no complications are ignored in favor of someone claiming her cousin’s best friend daughter factor died after receiving the vaccine. This is how Dr Fauci and dozens of other respected virologists are called “liars.”
There is no doubt that this is an extremely difficult situation. It’s not fair to ignore the concerns of people of color when they talk about trusting a government that for generations has set a pattern of heinous behavior designed to make their needs last. However, there has to be a smart way to approach this subject that doesn’t involve outwardly rejecting any vaccine mandate, while siding beyond ludicrous conspiracy theories. We can have discussions, like Kareem tries to do, where we discuss this mistrust, but also defend saving lives.
Sadly, as it stands, it’s a question of which voice is stronger, and sane people like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns and Enes Kanter are drowned out by uninformed stupidity. and not smart. The NBA and NBAPA need to do more and better – and not accept that inaction is the way to go.