“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?”
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.
A spokeswoman for Irving declined to respond to a list of questions regarding his vaccination and playing status, and Irving did not immediately respond to a message from Rolling Stone. But as teams return to pre-season training camps next week, fifty to sixty NBA players have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, league sources tell RS. Most are considered merely reluctant skeptics. Some of the holdouts, however, amount to their own shadow roster of anti-vaxxers mounting a behind-the-scenes resistance to Covid protocols — and the truth.
NBA Central: Brian Windhorst says Ben Simmons playing in front of Sixers fans is a ‘factor’ in him wanting out of Philadelphia “He doesn’t want to be in front of those fans. …I don’t think he intends to ever show his face there again.” (Via @Sirius XM NBA ) pic.twitter.com/Ltt0ccwARf
The core leaders on the 76ers — such as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle — and most of the team were set to take a jet to see Simmons before being turned away, sources said. Multiple sources said Simmons didn’t want his teammates, some of whom he considers friends, to make the Philadelphia-to-Los Angeles commute out of courtesy because he won’t change his mind on wanting a trade.