Los Angeles (CBSLA) - Retired NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivered a powerful message to the league suggesting that all unvaccinated players and staff should be removed from their teams.
"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," Abdul-Jabbar said in an article published in Rolling Stone.
Earlier this year, the NBA announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, "a new annual honor that will recognize a current NBA player for pursuing social justice and upholding the league's decades-long values of equality, respect and inclusion."
Abdul-Jabbar insists that it's part of a player's responsibility as a public figure to avoid spreading false narratives and to be aware of the significant social impact they have on their communities.
"They are failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with celebrity. Athletes are under no obligation to be spokespersons for the government, but this is a matter of public health," said Abdul-Jabar in an email to Rolling Stone. "By not encouraging their people to get the vaccine, they're contributing to these deaths. I'm also concerned about how this perpetuates the stereotype of dumb jocks who are unable to look at verified scientific evidence and reach a rational conclusion."
These comments come with NBA media day's taking place across the country and the upcoming season quickly approaching. The league continues to incentive getting the vaccine by requiring unvaccinated players to submit to regular testing - once on practice or travel days and at least once on game days, according to the Associated Press. Fully vaccinated players will not be required to submit to regular testing.
However, that hasn't stopped some of the NBA's most high-profile superstars from refusing to publicly acknowledge their vaccination status. Despite multiple media outlets reporting that nearly 90 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated, there have been multiple players who have publicly spoken against the vaccine sparking controversy in locker rooms across the association.
Kyrie Irving, who was not present for Brooklyn Nets media day due to health and safety protocols, has been one of the most vocal players about being unvaccinated.
"Living in this public sphere, there's a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie," he said, "and I would love to just keep that private and handle that the right way with my team and go forward with a plan."
The Nets, who are one of the heavy favorites to compete in this year's NBA Finals, will have to overcome some obstacles as Brooklyn, and the Golden State Warriors, are located in cities that require athletes to have at least one dose of Covid vaccination. Therefore, if Irving were to remain unvaccinated, he would be ineligible to play at home games at the Barclays Center.
Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal, who missed the Olympics with USA Basketball after being placed in health and safety protocols, has joined Irving in publicly criticizing the emphasis being put on vaccination status.
"What happens if one of our players gets the vaccine and can't play after that? Or they have complications after that? Because there are cases like that," said Beal regarding breakthrough cases among those that are fully-vaccinated.
Abdul-Jabbar expressed his frustration with players who are refusing the vaccine and fail to do "the necessary research."
"What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medial experts," he said. "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?"
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