NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has called on teams to take a firm stance and axe unvaccinated players from their roster.
The six-time NBA champion was responding to a damning report in Rolling Stone that detailed the anti-vax stance held by a proportion of players across the league.
The NBA does not require its players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to play but referees and other staff who have close contact with players are required to be fully vaccinated to continue in their roles.
Hall of Famer Abdul-Jabbar, 74, shamed players who ‘are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation’ and wants to see the league impose strict penalties that would see them kicked off a team as a result.
‘The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,’ Abdul-Jabbar told 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.’
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (left) wants unvaccinated NBA players, such as Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins (right), kicked off teams unless they chance their stance
The NBA announced on Friday that it has denied Wiggins’ religious exemption to avoid vaccination as it orders players to get double-jabbed ahead of the new 2021-2022 season
The issue around player vaccination is becoming increasingly fraught across the NBA with New York City and San Francisco changing the landscape in August.
Both cities announced that they require that NBA players on home teams be vaccinated or they will be refused entry into arenas.
This is particularly problematic for Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins, who has elected not to be vaccinated.
His request for religious exemption was denied by the league and a failure to alter his stance on vaccination would see Wiggins ineligible for the Warriors’ 41 home games.
Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open today.
That mandate requires everyone 12 and older to be vaccinated to attend big indoor events.
Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Kyrie Irving sat out media day on Monday but he remotely refused to shed any light on his vaccination status. Also at media day, Washington Wizards’ franchise star Bradley Beal said, ‘I don’t think you can pressure anybody into doing things, or putting things in their body.’
During an interview on Don Lemon Tonight on Monday, Abdul-Jabbar doubled down and said any unvaccinated players are acting as bad team-mates and citizens.
Abdul-Jabbar (left – pictured playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982) doubled down and says any unvaccinated player poses an unnecessary risk to others on and off the court
Wiggins will have to sit out on the Golden State Warriors’ home game next season, played at Chase Center (pictured) if he doesn’t follow the NBA and San Francisco’s vaccine mandate
FOUR UNVACCINATED NBA STARS
Andew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors) – Requested religious exemption but was refused. Unable to play in home games if he remains unvaccinated
Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets) – Yet to officially clarify his status, Irving was absent from media day and his aunt spoke out in defence of him not being vaccinated
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) – He revealed at media day that he is unvaccinated and went further to question why others feel the need to get vaccinated against Covid-19
Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic) – The Magic’s starting forward is incredibly religious and is proud to be unvaccinated, having said when asked about scientists that ‘you can’t always put your trust completely in people’
He said: ‘I don’t think that they are behaving like good team-mates or good citizens.
‘This is a war that we’re involved in. And masks and vaccines – they are the weapons that we use to fight this war.’
Irving is a complex individual across the league and sat out a number of games last season for personal reasons.
Addressing issues around vaccination, Irving said: ‘I’m a human being first. Obviously living in this public sphere, it’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie and I think I just would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way, with my team and go forward together with the plan.’
Abdul-Jabbar was later pushed on his thoughts on Irving’s remarks and the Los Angeles Lakers icon simply couldn’t accept the shooting guard ‘hiding behind’ procedure.
The 74-year-old told CNN’s Don Lemon: ‘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.’
In the original report by Rolling Stone it was detailed that around 50 to 60 NBA players have still to take the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Teams such as the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets have gone public in revealing their organizations are 100 per cent vaccinated but others are choosing to deal on a case-by-case basis.
The 2021-22 NBA regular season begins on October 19 and it is Irving and Wiggins that are drawing the most attention given the strict legislation in place in New York City and San Francisco.
Kryie Irving’s aunt came out fiercely in defence of the shooting guard over his vaccination status and suggested a formula could be devised to allow unvaccinated players to be involved
Coming to the defence of Irving, his aunt Tyki told Rolling Stone: ‘There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way.
‘It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you.
‘He is going to try to figure that out as it comes, because it’s not religious-based, it’s moral-based. You may have to sit on the sideline, you might not have to be in the arena during this.
‘If it’s that freaking important to get a vaccine that, hell, it’s still not preventing the Covid, – (which it does) – then I’d rather them working it out that way than to say, ‘Hey, if you don’t get the vaccine, then you can’t be a part of the franchise that you f***ing helped build.’
When quizzed on why he is continuing to refuse vaccination, Wiggins said: ‘Back is definitely against the wall. But I’m just going to keep fighting for what I believe. And whether it’s one thing or another, get a vaccination or not get a vaccination, who knows?
‘I’m just going to keep fighting for what I believe and what I believe is right. What’s right to one person isn’t right to the other and vice versa.’