54% of Americans think it would be a good idea to give NBA players early access to the COVID-19 vaccine in order to increase public confidence in it, according to a survey administered last week by The Harris Poll.
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Keith Pompey: #Sixers’ Julius Erving with his COVID-19 Vaccine PSA youtu.be/BduFxXmReSA via @YouTube
Within all of that, there was always going to be skepticism from the public that — whether it was the NBA or other pro sports leagues — the wealthy were going to jump the line (with the vaccine). I almost feel like it would make people feel good to know that someone who is guiding a lot of the protocol with the NBA is not a hired gun who only focuses on their priorities, if that makes sense. Dr. Leroy Sims: It does make sense, and what we’re doing on the NBA side is exactly what you indicated. We’re respecting public health guidelines, seeing what the CDC says and following what states and local governments and departments of health recommend. So to your point, we are not jumping the line. We are not looking to get ahead of anyone. What we’re doing is making sure that the essential and frontline workers have access to the vaccine, that people who are — from a health point of view — the most vulnerable, they have access to the vaccine. We don’t want to be in a position where we’re taking vaccines away from ER doctors or people who live in nursing homes or people with chronic medical conditions. We understand that and respect that. When the question does come up — when can we get vaccinated? — and I lay out the information about how the distribution is working right now, people go, “Yeah, I understand that.”
As a white man who has learned more and more on this front, I wonder if you think the players’ concerns are born out of the specific history here or is it also a generational thing where guys’ parents told them to be careful with the medical community (without the cultural context)? Dr. Leroy Sims: All those things are in play, Sam, because you have people who do know the history. These are some very well-read and savvy guys. They know the history. But also, they live in some of these communities, or come from some of these communities, and have seen the impacts up close and personal and have lived it. So there’s that piece that can’t be overlooked, that there is a familiarity with what’s happening. And it’s a beautiful thing that our guys stay in touch with the community. And they’re role models. And it is for that reason that we do want to partner with our players. We do want their support. We do want them to be spokesmen regarding this vaccine, and even though they can’t get vaccinated right now, we hope that they’ll lend support to family members who may be eligible to get vaccinated. So that’s one of the calls that I have: Can you all support us that way? And hopefully, when it’s your turn and we can vaccinate you, you’ll get vaccinated as well.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Dr. Sims told ESPN on Wednesday: “I’ve tried to tackle misinformation….These guys look at data all the time. I know they get the data, and appeal to them at that level.”
The NBA’s outreach to the agents of many of the league’s elite players — with hopes of getting stars to participate in PSAs to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine — has been met with a tepid response, sources said. Player apprehension about receiving the vaccine are consistent with those that also exist in Black communities throughout the country, agents and players told ESPN.
Sources describe a number of factors contributing to many players’ reluctance to participate, including uncertainty about taking the vaccine themselves, reluctance to advocate its use for others and resistance to extending favors to a league amid the largely unpopular plans for an All-Star Game.
On a call with league general managers on Tuesday, commissioner Adam Silver continued to tell top team executives that the league wouldn’t “jump the line” of the general public to get vaccines, but he suggested an optimistic timeline that included the possibility of late March and early April for the start of player vaccinations, sources said. Nevertheless, that’s considered a fluid timeline, largely meant to reaffirm to teams the need to be prepared for whenever the opportunity to vaccinate players comes from public health officials, sources said.
Brian Lewis: Abbamondi: “For the remainder of the season we’re donating a portion of ticket proceeds to support vaccination efforts in Brooklyn. We’d also like to thank our fans for their support this season and we are looking forward to bringing their energy back to Barclays Center!” #Nets
Starting with Monday night’s home game against Minnesota, the Mavericks finally will have fans in American Airlines Center, but not just any fans: 1,500 essential workers, who will be admitted for free. “We owe so much to people who have put their lives at risk to make us safer,” said Mavs owner, Mark Cuban said in a news release. “Bringing them to a Mavs game is the least we can do!”
Dr. Leroy Sims, the NBA’s senior vice president of medical affairs, will meet via Zoom with every team between now and Feb. 19, according to a league memo obtained by The Athletic, for the express purpose of reflecting “on his experience as an emergency medicine physician during the COVID-19 pandemic and his COVID-19 vaccination — to promote greater understanding and awareness regarding league-wide and public vaccination initiatives.” With so many players in need of information and insight on this front, sources say teams asked league officials for assistance when it came to vaccine education.
In short, the NBA wants its basketball people — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, potentially as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign. But a large majority of the players are African-American, a community that has been known to be distrustful of vaccines, in large part, because of the shameful history of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other examples of worse treatment and outcomes for Black men and women in encounters with the medical community than whites received.
Marc Stein: “This is one shot I won’t block.” — Celtics legend @RealBillRussell takes the COVID-19 vaccine in the NBA’s latest PSA … joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gregg Popovich in the league’s campaign: youtube.com/watch?v=CfOG24…
Tim Reynolds: Bill Russell has become the latest NBA legend to announce he’s been vaccinated for COVID-19. “This is one shot I won’t block,” the 11-time NBA champion said, adding “No Celtics were harmed during my shot.” The ring GOAT speaks here: youtu.be/CfOG24IkuCo (ps: his Kobe hat!)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Which is why any suggestion to speed up the process of inoculating N.B.A. players is a tricky social, economic and political proposal. I don’t agree with Charles Barkley that professional athletes “deserve some preferential treatment” because of how “much taxes these players pay.” That argument suggests that the lives of those who make more money (and presumably pay more taxes) are somehow more valuable than the nurses, police officers, emergency medical workers, grocery clerks, and others risking their lives daily. This is, of course, untrue. N.B.A. players don’t deserve to move to the front of the line because they are rich or because the country needs basketball during these isolating times. It’s not a matter of deserving as much as a way to get to herd immunity faster.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Of course, I would like to see the N.B.A. season in full swing, with all the players safely inoculated, but not at the expense of those whose lives are in immediate danger. The exception: those receiving the shots as part of a sustained campaign to bring vaccination awareness to communities most in need of persuasion. Public celebrity inoculation is a proven and reasonable step in moving the nation toward herd immunity, opening businesses, and finally hugging our loved ones.
Tom Orsborn: Pop on why he did the COVID-19 vaccine PSA: “We are in dire circumstances. It’s kind of amazing to me that there’s a swath of our population that still doesn’t believe that. But somebody a whole lot more incisive and smarter is going to have to figure that one out. If we can do our part in any way in making people feel comfortable that getting this shot is wise both for them and everybody else around them, I think we need to do it.”
Alex Lasry, a 33-year-old Milwaukee Bucks executive and son of a billionaire, received the coronavirus vaccine this week at a senior living center in Milwaukee despite not being part of a group currently eligible for the shots in Wisconsin. Lasry told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he “just got lucky” and didn’t receive any favoritism.
The New York City native, who is a hedge fund manager, is considering running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin in 2022. He was also host committee chair for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was awarded to Milwaukee but then moved online due to the pandemic. Lasry, son of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, said his wife, Lauren, got a call Monday from her uncle, who is rabbi at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living, saying the senior living center had some extra, unused vaccine doses.
Tom Orsborn: In an NBA-produced PSA, Pop, who turned 72 today, said of getting the COVID-19 vaccine: “It will keep me safe, keep my family safe and keep other people safe….Science-wise, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the right thing to do so we can all get on track again. Let’s do this together.”
Gregg Popovich has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Spurs coach and USA Basketball coach Gregg Popovich revealed today that he has received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Leroy Sims has been on hundreds of Zoom calls since the pandemic hit the United States. Many were of sobering variety. But on Sunday afternoon, the NBA senior vice president of medical affairs led a Zoom call that had special meaning to him as he talked to his grandmother, uncle and other family members and close friends who were mostly African American about why they should take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There was some skepticism,” Sims told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Jan. 22. “They asked, ‘Were Black people included in the clinical trials? How did they really know it worked?’ I used a slide with results and graphs showing treatment vs. placebo. I walked them through the vaccine development process and how this timeline works. It helped knowing that I got vaccinated after having my own hesitation initially, which I shared. I told them that it wasn’t mandatory that I got vaccinated, but my research and reviews helped me make my decision. I said I would recommend it to grandma. That I swayed her helped them too.
“Just being able to have someone break it down for them, someone speaking to them who they know and trust, and someone there to answer all their questions gave everyone across the board more comfort with the vaccines. I appealed to the reality that they, my parents and elders, got other vaccines and vaccinated us throughout the years. So, I know they aren’t anti-vaxxers. I encouraged them to ask questions, remain curious and make informed decisions, and not just accept things based on blind faith, because medicine is supposed to be based on evidence.”
What is the state of the NBA as it attempts to play out the season with the challenges that come with COVID-19? I would say that if you judge us independently of what happened in the bubble, we’re doing as well as we expected and are probably where we thought we would be. Judging us against the bubble, where we were in a controlled environment and we had no players test positive, then it makes the season seem like a contrast. But in reality, in both situations, we were able to generate health and safety protocols to keep people healthy and safe. If you look at where we are with this season, we’re playing the majority of our games.
When do you think NBA players and the coaching staff will start getting the vaccine? We’re not jumping the line. We understand that the vaccine is rolling out in such a way that you’re trying to get to the people who are most at risk or most vulnerable first, that includes front-line workers like myself working in the ER [emergency room], because we’re around so many people who could have the virus. It includes people who are elderly, living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, or people who have chronic medical conditions. Those people who are at risk of severe complications, hospitalizations or deaths if they were to get COVID, we’re focused on them. After that, we’ll open it up. The vaccine will start to be distributed to others in the community.
We recognize that our basketball players are young and healthy, so they will get vaccinated or have the opportunity to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. So we won’t be jumping the line there. As it relates to some of our coaches and older individuals, some of them are in categories that allow them to get vaccinated. But that will bear out the way that the local hospitals, departments of public health, are rolling out the vaccine and setting up the prioritization.
Andy Larsen: Quin Snyder: “We would encourage everybody to take the vaccine… we haven’t had specific conversations [about that], we’re just trying to follow the current protocols”
The NBA has started a full-court press with promotional efforts to encourage its players and the general public to take the vaccine for the coronavirus. “For myself and my family, I am going to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in an NBA-sanctioned PSA. “To learn more about the vaccines, go to CDC.gov. Let’s do this together.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine is significant both because of his health history and his efforts to speak out on various social justice issues. Abdul-Jabbar, 73, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia 11 years ago. He revealed in a recent article for WebMD that he has also had prostate cancer and heart bypass surgery. Abdul-Jabbar told USA TODAY Sports last year that the treatment for leukemia is “an ongoing thing.”
Tom Orsborn: Asked if Spurs are taking extra precautions with Becky Hammon, Drew Eubanks and a staffer in COVID-19 protocols, Pop replied, “We are doing everything possible. There’s not much more we can do.” He also said he has not been vaccinated.
Michele Roberts knows calls are coming about the COVID-19 vaccines, calls about the NBA players she represents, calls from those very players and even calls about herself, a 64-year-old Black woman who could very well have the option to take the vaccine.
Even if the questions are the same, the answers may not be. The National Basketball Players Association executive director has been doing her own research on the viability of the vaccines, weighing whether she will take it. But whether she takes it doesn’t give a definitive indication on what her recommendation to the players will be — a reasonable complication of a very layered, complex and downright scary situation.
“I got some very close friends. And really smart people have said to me, ‘Michele, it’s a no-brainer, of course, you’ll take the vaccine,’” Roberts said in a recent phone conversation with Yahoo Sports. “Unlike my players, I’m considerably older than they are and probably further up on the list. “But I haven’t made up my mind. I’m eager to be convinced that these are safe. I’m hopeful I’ll be convinced that they’re safe. But I’m not a cheerleader … I’m not at a place yet where I would wholeheartedly and fulsomely say, absolutely, you have to take it.”
The NBA, according to league sources, is very sensitive to being accused of taking advantage and giving its players the vaccine ahead of frontline workers, the vulnerable and the elderly. “We won’t jump the line” is a familiar refrain stated by commissioner Adam Silver. But given the sporadic distribution and seemingly passive response by the current administration, there’s no rhyme or reason to “the line” after the obvious people who will receive it.
“The sad fact, health care in our communities has never been anything other than subpar,” Roberts said, mentioning Tuskegee. “Our community’s suspicions about the bona fide ease of treatment that’s offered to us as well, let’s face it, Black pregnant women have an exponentially greater possibility of dying in childbirth, than their white counterparts, solely because of the quality of care that they receive. So you know, the African American players in the NBA are members of the African American community, that to the extent our community has certain sensitivities, not surprisingly, our players are going to have those sensitivities.”
The league has answered questions on myriad topics with the players, ranging from players who’ve caught the virus already and are unsure of taking the vaccine, to the function of the antibodies with the vaccine. It can suggest but not demand players take it — which may or may not be reflective of what’s to come nationally. “So … if I don’t see a national requirement, a federal requirement — [President-elect] Biden’s often said that he’s not prepared to go down that road,” Roberts said. “But I think that there are going to be enough pockets of industry, where you will see [pseudo]-requirements. I think that some private employers might be able to do it.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA has informed teams that infectious disease and public health experts advising the league has concluded, consistent with FDA, that the new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are “safe and effective,” league tells teams in a memo obtained by ESPN.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Nets and BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi told CNBC that the NBA will face huge losses without fans in the stands this season, but he’s hopeful that as things return to normal with COVID vaccines, arenas will be full again by the post-season. Abbamondi added he’s also hopeful that the NBA season will survive “bumps along this road” as the play resumes while the pandemic continues to rage across the country. The concern, he said, begins with players testing positive for the coronavirus.
Abbamondi told CNBC that NBA teams hope they’ll be able to welcome fans back in time for the postseason, when gate revenues —and team profits— are usually at their highest. In the meantime, the league has raised $900 million and will provide teams with $30 million each to stay afloat for the year. “We are optimistic that before this season is over, which will be in the summer of next year, things are going to look very different,” Abbamondi said. “There is a lot of caution, but there’s also a sense of optimism, and I think all Americans share that.”
When asked about the idea of the league returning to a bubble for the playoffs, Silver said that anything is a possibility, but his hope is the vaccine for COVID-19 is successful enough that by the time the playoffs are scheduled to start in late May, there is a chance fans could be back in arenas. “It’s our hope that given the planned rollout of the vaccine that we’ll be going in the other direction, that it’ll become increasingly more likely that there will be a return to a home-court advantage,” Silver said. “That come May, June, July, which right now our season is targeted to end mid-July, that by that point there really will be a meaningful opportunity to have fans in our building.”
Carlisle has made that decision partly because his wife is an infectious disease doctor. Others, however, say they need more information before committing, including Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes and coach Luke Walton, Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby and Suns coach Monty Williams. “As a father, I can’t just put anything in my body that will keep me from being the best father I can be. So I got to study more,” Williams said. “But I also trust the people that we have in the league. Once they give us the information that we need, as it relates to taking the vaccine, if it’s something that I’m comfortable with, I’ll do it. But I haven’t received that yet. So it’s hard to make that assessment.”
A key NBA player tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year, leaving him further educated on the virus and the time it takes to recover from it. Yet, Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner sounded apprehensive about the vaccine. “I’ve had the antibodies. We’re getting tested on the regular. So I’m doing whatever it takes to keep myself as safe as possible,” Turner said. “But as far as the vaccination, I personally don’t roll with the first round of things. I’d like to see how things roll out.”
“I’m a guy that don’t really take any vaccines. I try to stay away from a lot of medicine,” Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “But I don’t really have an answer for that one right now. It’s a big thing going on with the news and obviously with the COVID situation. So I don’t want to say anything out of line. But for me personally, I’m a type of person that stays away from that kind of stuff.”
The prominent NBA coach has become increasingly impressed with the league’s health and safety protocols to mitigate risk with the coronavirus. Therefore, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers sounded just as comfortable with taking a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. “Because I trust it. I’m not a conspiracist right now,” Rivers said. “Obviously you want it to be done right. You’re hoping that all the things that should have been done have been done by the FDA and everybody else. But I have no problem taking it.”
Sirius XM NBA: “Those last couple of months of the NBA season are going to be incredible.” Mark Cuban tells Frank Isola & Brian Scalabrine he’s confident a vaccine will help get NBA arenas rocking by the spring.
As multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in the final stages of approval, reports have circulated about how the NBA plans to approach mandatory or voluntary vaccination for players, coaches and team and league employees. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, also the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, isn’t for a rigid requirement. But he talked before the Mavericks’ preseason opener Saturday about his personal willingness to receive the vaccine.
“The NBA will certainly research it thoroughly,” Carlisle said. “Coming off the success of [the 2019-20 season restart near] Orlando and all that, I don’t think there’s any reason to question the data that they come up with because they research everything very, very thoroughly.”
What the Warriors need now, besides time, is some help from the outside world. Cases in California leveling out would be ideal. The risk of creating a super-spreader event is too much for the city to allow thousands of fans in any building. And the questions now: Will the Warriors show that their plan is foolproof? Or will the city find a way to accept the risk before a vaccine becomes widespread enough to make it irrelevant? Stone’s optimistic thoughts point toward March. Some estimates have the vaccine reaching much of the general public a few months later. There could be a window between the two when the Warriors’ plan could be approved but before the vaccine fully arrives: the NBA playoffs.
Kyle Goon: Marc Gasol on COVID-19 vaccine: “I would prefer the vaccine goes to the people who need it the most instead of us, but that’s just common sense.” Question by @Brad Turner was only if he would take the vaccine. As far as I know, no push for players to get priority on vaccinations.
Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in final stages of approval, and the NBA could find itself as the first major professional North American sports league to manage widespread usage for players and coaches.
According to an array of discussions with league executives, team physicians and agents the league has been focusing on a few key areas: • A need to create an educational program for players and staff about vaccine choices, possible side effects and efficacy with the intent to put players at ease and be willing to take it. While this process is still in the earliest stages, some players have already begun expressing hesitation to their agents and team doctors about the vaccine, sources told ESPN. Educating the players about the measures taken to prevent the virus at the bubble in Orlando proved effective in fostering cooperation.
“I would guess that for most players, they will be willing to take it,” said a prominent agent, who represents numerous players. “I think there will be a societal push for as many as possible to take it.” Others feel it will be a harder sell. Among the issues, sources said, is numerous players who have had the virus — and now have some level of antibodies — may need to be convinced the vaccine is necessary. Between the season restart last summer and the start of this season’s training camp, the NBA announced around 100 positive tests for players and staff. But that does not account for the numerous players and coaches who contracted the virus during the shutdown and in the offseason, only a few of whom have elected to publicly self identify.
“We are going to need someone they trust, who is not involved with the league, that can lay it out for the skeptical guys,” said another agent who represents All-Stars. “Maybe it’s someone like President Obama. To position this to the players as an opportunity to motivate others, which happened with masks.”
The need to create a policy for how quickly the league will seek injections. Regardless of its resources, league officials know there are higher-risk populations that take priority including medical-care workers, nursing home residents, essential workers, and others. The NBA aims to respect whatever guidelines and criteria are enforced by the government and medical agencies concerning which populations will receive a vaccine early, sources said. With that said, league sources say the NBA doesn’t plan to enforce any specific rules that would prohibit an individual from trying to obtain a vaccine if they wanted one while it’s available. Even if that would mean some players and teams might get access to the vaccine earlier than peers who play and live in another city. League executives are already recognizing this type of policy could lead to a competitive balance issue at some point if some teams have the chance to be inoculated before others.
Numerous teams have close connections to top healthcare providers in their regions and the availability of shots could vary depending on the home state or region of the country. How distribution might play out is still being determined by local governments. The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 6 that some health officials support early vaccination for professional athletes to demonstrate its effectiveness and safety in a high-profile manner.
Over the summer, the NBA was active in assisting with education and enrollment around vaccine trials. The league worked with partners at the National Urban League and UnidosUS to help spread awareness and solicit vaccine trial participants in underserved communities. Additionally, the league took a first step last week when its health and safety protocol were updated to include provisions about vaccines. In the guidance, the league told players it would work with the National Basketball Players Association about whether taking a vaccine would be required if it’s proven safe. Or if not required, whether there would be separate protocols for players who were not inoculated.
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February 28, 2021 | 6:15 am EST Update
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love is on this quick two-game trip with his teammates so he can continue to rehab a high-grade strained right calf, but the five-time All-Star is “unlikely” to return until after the NBA All-Star break, league sources tell cleveland.com.
Given the Cavs only have two games remaining — Monday in Houston and Wednesday at home against the Indiana Pacers — before a needed nine-day break, sources said the team doesn’t see the upside in pushing it. They want to use the extra days to get his calf better, so he can be 100 percent for the Second Half.
The Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant will still serve as an NBA All-Star Game captain despite a hamstring injury that will keep him from playing. Durant and fellow All-Star Game captain LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers will each draft a roster out of the pool of selected All-Stars. The All-Star draft will air on TNT on March 4. It remained unclear whether Durant will travel to Atlanta for the game on March 7.
A Knicks official said Rivers was at the Garden, but in the back getting treatment for a sore ankle. Rivers was not listed on the pregame injury report submitted to the NBA. On the box score, Rivers was listed with a DNP-Coach’s Decision. Earlier this week, Rivers said of his situation: “I can’t control if I’m traded today, tomorrow or the next day. What I can control is how I am as a player.’’
His father, Mychal Thompson, believes Klay’s basketball lifespan could run until he’s 40 years old. “I said, if you really want to, you can play till you’re 40 years of age, but the key to that is you have to take care of your body, as you go into your 30s,” Mychal said, recounting to NBC Sports Bay Area a conversation he had with Klay.
That doesn’t mean he’s a finished product. There’s a reason the Raptors signed him with G League intentions and not for the NBA roster. The 10-day contract (about $82,000) affords them six games to see how he can fit and progress in their environment. It’s an audition by another name, and not the first time the Raptors have used a 10-day to get a 905 look at a prospect. “This gives us a chance to get Donta down in our system, teach him our ins and outs and the way we operate our offence, our defence, our schemes, and see how he looks running those,” general manager Chad Sanders said. “With Tampa just down the street, it’s a chance for us to get him out there and get some reps and get a chance to evaluate him for the big club.”
Callie Caplan: Luka, on ABC, asked about recent comparisons to Larry Bird’s game: “More, more games to go. A long time before you can compare me to Larry Bird. I just want to keep hooping, have fun playing basketball.”