NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league will not force its players to take the COVID-19 vaccines once they’re made available, and it looks like some of them are not even really in a rush to get the shot.
In an interview on Sunday before the All-Star Game, Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James responded coyly when he was asked if he’ll take the shot “as soon as it’s available” and if he’ll encourage his fellow athletes in the league to also go for it.
“That’s a conversation that my family and I will have,” the 36-year-old said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Pretty much keep that to a private thing.”
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James’ reserved response to getting vaccinated has also been re-echoed by some players in the league, with the likes of Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden and Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell saying they’re still undecided. Mitchell contracted the virus in March last year. Some people within the African-American community have also been loudly vocal about their opposition to taking the vaccine shot – questioning its effects on them and citing historical instances where their kind were used as guinea pigs in medical experiments. Following the rollout of the vaccines, health officials have reiterated that they are safe.
The NBA has also embarked on a campaign advocating for people to take the vaccine shots, with former players Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving publicly taking their jabs in a campaign to reiterate the vaccines are safe and effective, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“In terms of the education efforts, those are ongoing,” Silver said on Saturday. “I think ultimately these are personal decisions that players need to make, just like everyone in our communities need to make. We see our role, together with the Players Assn., [as] providing them with the best possible information and also encouraging them to seek out information on their own. They have personal physicians, others they may rely on.”
Silver was, however, optimistic majority of the players in the league will eventually decide to get vaccinated. “We’ll make additional progress if players get vaccinated, but it certainly doesn’t require that they all get vaccinated,” he said.
“I also anticipate — we’re seeing this now both, I think, in actual numbers of people getting vaccinated in the United States, and opinion polls — that people are becoming more willing to get vaccinated. To those who have been hesitaters, I think as tens of millions of people now in the United States have gotten the vaccine that people are seeing, at least in the short term, what the impact is, and they’re hearing about how incredibly effective these vaccines are.”
Silver added: “My hunch is that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated. It’s a personal decision, but I think especially … when they see the alternative.”
That notwithstanding, some of the league’s players are still not in a hurry to get vaccinated when they get the opportunity despite being at risk of contracting the virus.
“I think it’s all luck, man,” James said with regards to contracting the virus. “I can’t sit here and tell you I’m an expert on this whole thing. It’s just luck. You have no idea how you can contract it or how you can get it. We know the cases, we know the studies, we hear the doctors and the things of that nature, and I’ve just tried to follow protocol as much as it’s been laid out to us.
“I go to the facility. And I go home. And I go to the arena. And I go home.”