PRESS BOX: NBA players should trust the science and get the COVID-19 vaccine

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Yanni Kouiroukidis, Contributing Writer

To me, the decision to get my COVID-19 vaccine was a no brainer. I felt as though this was the best option to keep me and my family safe. I rolled up my sleeve and attended my appointment at the VCU University Student Commons as soon as I became eligible.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is one of the biggest players in the league to recently avoid giving a concrete stance on his vaccination status, while Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal attempted to avoid answering questions about his own unvaccinated status. 

I received my vaccines, but I’m not going to play over 70 basketball games against the world’s best athletes. These players need to get vaccinated not only for their health and safety, but for the betterment of their team.

Besides the health and safety risks staying unvaccinated would cause the players, it would just simply be an inconvenience. For example, if Beal were to not get vaccinated he would have to sit in different sections on both team flights and dinners. Unvaccinated players would also have to use isolated lockers and undergo daily testing during practices and games, according to the NBA’s new COVID-19 protocols

Besides the damage to the team and their own safety, they’ll also be hurting their pockets as unvaccinated players are going to be prone to fines and reduced salary. 

Since the NBA first suspended its season on March 11, 2020, the league has gone through two seasons and is now in the process to start another season Oct. 19. 

Opening night is only two weeks away and yet there is still a feeling of uncertainty around the league surrounding one very big topic — the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Beal was originally slated to make the trip to Tokyo, for the Olympics this summer to play basketball for Team USA. However, due to health and safety protocols he was unable to make the trip to compete for a gold medal. 

During the Wizards media day on Sept. 27, Beal voiced his concern with how vaccines are being “forced” on players. 

“I don’t feel pressure [to get vaccinated],” Beal told members of the media. “I don’t think you can pressure anybody into doing things, or putting things in their body.”

When asked to clarify his comments on the vaccine, Beal questioned breakthrough cases, or cases in which those vaccinated are still getting COVID-19. 

“I would ask the question of those who are vaccinated,” Beal told the press, “why are you still getting COVID?”

I’m disappointed in Beal’s comments, especially due to the fact that he missed the Olympics solely based on his vaccination status. I figured that after losing out on that, he would just accept the fact that the vaccine is needed for both his health and safety. As of right now, Beal is still unvaccinated because of the 60-day waiting period that is needed to get the shot after contracting COVID-19

Both Beal and Irving have avoided taking a concrete stance on their vaccination status. Leaving a lot of the questions by saying “no comment” or wishing to “keep it private.”

Irving is arguably one of the most skilled basketball players to ever play the game. His seven NBA All-Star Game appearances and 2016 NBA championship title speak for themselves. 

Even so, one of the game’s biggest players has recently found himself surrounded in controversy due to his vaccination beliefs.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, Irving was unable to attend the Sept. 27 media day for the Nets in Brooklyn, according to the Associated Press.

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins is another player that has spoken out against getting vaccinated.

Wiggins attempted to file a religious exemption and speak out against the vaccine on several occasions, but his exemption was denied on Sept. 24 by the NBA, according to a press release from the league.

The Warriors announced that Wiggins recently received his vaccination, according to a ESPN report from Monday. Wiggins confirmed he has been fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will allow him to be fully vaccinated and immune prior to the Warriors’ Oct. 21 home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

According to local ordinances in both New York City and San Francisco, athletes are required to be vaccinated. If they aren’t vaccinated by the start of the season they will be unable to play in all of their home games. And in cases like Irving and Beal, their teams would suffer tremendously without their presence on the court. 

Beal is the Wizards’ best player and was second in the league last year in points per game, with 31.3, and Irving is a seven-time All-Star and one of the most popular faces in the league.

Although Irving is in Brooklyn with both James Harden and Kevin Durant, fans can look back at last year’s playoff loss against the Milwaukee Bucks to see how Irving’s absence affected the team, which was due to an ankle injury. 

The NBA has stated that they will not mandate players to be vaccinated as a league, according to ESPN. However, if a player is playing for a team that requires vaccination and they aren’t vaccinated, they will miss competing in home games without pay, according to NBA spokesperson Mike Bass.

My opinion on this matter is simple — trust the science. I guarantee that these players who are skeptical of receiving the vaccine are not more educated than the scientists behind the COVID-19 vaccines. They do not have the doctorate degrees that the scientists who researched the vaccine do. There’s no way that these players did as much research as the scientists who were backed by billions of dollars.

Trust the science, be a reliable teammate, and get the vaccine. These athletes are ultimately hurting their teams in the end if they continue to decide against it.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting perspective regarding COVID-19 vaccine in relation to NBA teams or any other major team sports. This is the point that some people who are against the vaccine are missing. It is not just about an individual decision. It is about the safety of the whole. Great article Yanni!

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