Sanity, Vaccines, and the NBPA

Or how to not be an anti-vaccine fool in the times of COVID

Well, Rolling Stone’s Matt Sullivan came out with a doozy of an article chronicling some of the more outspoken and outlandish behavior of anti-vaccine NBA players.

You should read the whole thing, if you haven’t yet. I won’t rehash the whole article because it is worth all your time, but below are some of the parts that just made my head explode.


When asked directly about Irving’s vaccination status — or his plans to change it — multiple people familiar with his thinking declined to answer directly. But one confidant and family member floated to Rolling Stone the idea of anti-vaxx players skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance… or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.

Oh really? That’s your protest? You don’t want to take a vaccine that’ll almost assuredly save your life if you catch COVID? Can y’all imagine Dolph Schayes in 1955 giving his Third Eye opinion on the dangers of the polio vaccine?

But let’s breathe and take a step back…

There is something to be said for labor unions not giving away the right to negotiate workplace conditions even considering a vaccine. There’s matters around the efficacy of the vaccine, the disease in question, how it spreads, how the vaccine will be administered, and other logistical matters.

HOWEVER, we’re talking about a disease spread through breathing. The NBPA (or any union) oughta recognize this poses a threat to all of their members. Can’t breath, can’t play basketball. Seems simple.

So negotiate the logistics and ensure that any players with compromised immune systems are treated fairly, but the default setting should be mandating the vaccine. Once the FDA gave Pfizer’s vaccine full approval this whole thing should have been a done deal.

Get the shot to save everyone from serious infection and possible death from COVID. And this means fewer games missed by players, no games cancelled, better chance to win those games. How is this a bad concept for the NBA or NBPA?

And on to that last bit about protesting.

…or at least threatening to protest them, until the NBA changes its ways.

Really? This is the hill you die on? (Since they’re not taking the vaccine, this might actually be more than just a saying).

Elgin Baylor refused to play in a segregated game. Dikembe Mutombo built hospitals in Congo. Craig Hodges was blackballed for speaking out on racism.

Magic Johnson learned the hard way the importance of safe sex. He then did his best to make sure everyone who had HIV was treated humanely; and to educate on how the virus spread so others would not be infected. Johnson even publicly denounced then-President George H.W. Bush’s lackadaisical efforts to fight HIV.

Also, god damn this Nick News special with Johnson holds up (not the graphics or the terrible rap in the middle, but everything else). Magic is telling children to talk to their parents and speak with doctors about HIV because they have a right to know about and understand medicine, science, and their health.

Johnson, and the amazing Linda Ellerbee, told the kids that they should know all that so they could protect themselves and others from a menacing disease. 30 years later we got some people letting a deadly virus run rampant for selfish, self-centered reasons.

Imagine some anti-vaxx NBA player talking to a 10-year-old today. “Nah, man don’t get the vaccine. The government is just trying to track you and your family with satanic nanochips.”

Speaking of which…


Kyrie Irving oughta be stripped of any union leadership immediately. This is just downright stupid.

Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that “secret societies” are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for “a plan of Satan.” This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week.

Great example of how taking a stand ain’t always a glorious thing. This man is putting his foot down on the side of death and misery.

Also Irving had the nerve to receive his Standing Rock reservation membership card (good!) and promptly violated their COVID protocols (BAD!).

Native nations in the United States have been amazing vaccinating their communities. That success has come despite continued underfunding and crippling of their health systems by the generalized racism placed upon them by the US federal government for over 200 years and by colonialism generally for several hundred years.

At least Kyrie showed up to demonstrate to the young people he talked to how to disregard the safety and well-being of others.

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The Orlando Magic’s 23-year-old starting forward [Jonthan Isaac] is deeply religious — and proudly unvaccinated. When NBA players started lining up for shots in March, Isaac started studying Black history and watching Donald Trump’s press conferences. He learned about antibody resistance and came to distrust Dr. Anthony Fauci. He looked out for people who might die from the vaccine, and he put faith in God.

Let that paragraph marinate in your brain.

Isaac (supposedly) studied Black history and watched Donald Trump press conferences. I’m gonna say the man did not have a thorough research process.

Against all odds, I hope he came across the story of Onesimus, the enslaved African who taught Cotton Mather (a minister!) about inoculation (an early form of vaccination) as a way to combat the spread of smallpox in colonial Boston.

Lookie there! Black history, science, and religion working together to stop the spread of a disease.

And let’s be honest, this is some cherry-picking on what science to believe and what faith to put in God. How come these vaccines can’t be miracles from God to stop the scourge of COVID?

Me thinks the poison of Trump press conferences has infected Isaac’s brain cuz he’s not out here questioning other forms of science he relies on routinely.

  • How does the team bus’s internal combustion engine work? Don’t trust science, put your faith in your feet and walk to the airport.

  • How is this plane staying in the sky as we head to the next game? Don’t trust science, put your faith in your arms and flap to Portland for the next game.

  • How does anesthesia for my torn ACL surgery work? Don’t trust science, put your faith in your hands and cut open your knee while wide awake.

Perhaps Isaac should just stop trusting any and all science until he figures out the process for each one himself. He’ll never play basketball again because he’ll spend the rest of his life trying to figure out how light bulbs stay on, but them’s the breaks.


These loud voices should not drown out the fact that the vaaaaast majority of players have gotten the shot, just like the majority of eligible people in American society have gotten vaccinated despite the loud griping—and even violence—of dummies.

These holdouts should be shamed—yes, SHAMED—for putting us through this utter stupidity.

Bless Grant Williams, Enes Kanter, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for admirably holding these guys to task. But Kanter and Williams are bench players. Kareem, for as great and wonderful as he is, has been retired for over 30 years.

These aren’t the names that are going to shame the holdouts.

LeBron James oughta say something definitively positive about the vaccine instead of dodging questions about it.

Fill in your resident star player: Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, etc. They oughta be blunt about the benefits of the vaccine as well as blunt about the selfishness of not taking the vaccine.

Somebody, multiple bodies even!, need to publicly refute this asinine behavior and salvage the honor of the NBPA. In the end, they can’t force Irving, Isaac, and the other holdouts to get the vaccine, but you can stop them from embarrassing your profession.

And if you still haven’t read Matt Sullivan’s article, read it.