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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says NBA should have vaccine mandate for players

Vincent Goodwill joins Michael Holley and Michael Smith to break down the NBA COVID complications for players who may miss games due to local vaccine ordinances and explore what the teams' responsibilities should be.

There will be no vaccine mandate for NBA players this season. Coaches and team staff have to be vaccinated, as do referees, but the players union has called a players vaccine mandate a non-starter.

Hall of Famer and player who deserves to be in the GOAT conversation Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says players should be required to be vaccinated and has no patience for those who have not gotten the jab. Look at what he told Matt Sulivan in a must-read feature at Rolling Stone.

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells 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?”

There are some high-profile non-vaccinated players in the NBA, specifically Kyrie Irving of the Nets and Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors. Both play in cities — New York and San Francisco, respectively — with vaccine mandates to enter larger indoor spaces, meaning neither can play in home games so long as they are unvaccinated. Wiggins requested a religious exemption, but the league denied that request. Irving appears to have gone down the COVID misinformation rabbit hole. They are not alone among players, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 unvaccinated players, and some, such as Jonathan Isaac of the Magic, are very public about it.

Abdul-Jabbar is frustrated with the attitudes of these players.

“They are failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with celebrity. Athletes are under no obligation to be spokespersons for the government, but this is a matter of public health,” the Hall-of-Famer writes Rolling Stone in an e-mail. Abdul-Jabbar is especially disappointed in athletes of color: “By not encouraging their people to get the vaccine, they’re contributing to these deaths. I’m also concerned about how this perpetuates the stereotype of dumb jocks who are unable to look at verified scientific evidence and reach a rational conclusion.”

There are a lot of people around the league who agree with Abdul-Jabbar.

At this point, arguments of logic or reason — or, in the case of the very religious such as Isaac, noting that the Christ-like thing to do would be to put the needs and safety of others first — are not going to sway minds. So the NBA has taken steps to change the calculus for the unvaccinated, making them jump through more hoops to play. However, as noted in the Rolling Stone article, the NBA has backed off a number of those ideas, such as off-day testing and players being separated from teammates during travel.