“This isn’t a virus cheating us of this opportunity. It’s the guys making decisions saying, ‘No, no we’re too scared. We’re going to shut everything down. Sit in your house and be careful.’ My kids and grandkids hearing these things and accepting them as truth when I know by my significant amount of research that it isn’t, it’s very frustrating.”
Such are the lingering words of 59-year-old former Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton, who advises the public in a video not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. The website housing this video has information telling people that not only are the vaccines fake, that face masks are completely useless, that the anxiety caused by social distancing weakens immunity in the body, but also that no preventive measures need to be taken because COVID-19 will automatically disappear two years after the pandemic began. And it’s all a hoax anyway.
In the past, Stockton worked inseparably with Karl Malone on the court. Although unremarkable in stature, he moved among the bigger players with ease, displaying intelligence and confidence on the court. He was also once an idol to many basketball fans, so his recent words against vaccines are not only unexpected, but also hurtful to many.
Someone on Twitter used a clever play on words to comment on Stockton, saying he now blocks more shots than a famous center player (riffing on “giving a shot” and “taking a shot”). The former king of assists retired and is now the king of blocks. Time certainly changes everything.
Previously, the Joe Biden administration hoped to vaccinate 70% of adults before July 4, and governments of all levels promoted vaccines with various rewards. That goal was obviously unmet. In addition to obstacles created by political positions, religious beliefs and personal ideas, objections such as those by Stockton notably affect vaccination rates.
As for current NBA players, superstar player LeBron James has so far been unwilling to express his stance on vaccines, and many people think he has yet to be vaccinated. Although this is a personal choice, it directly harms the health of African Americans. Because of a lower desire to be vaccinated among African Americans, they are the group with the highest hospitalization and mortality rates across the country. In Washington, D.C., for example, African Americans make up 47% of the population, but account for 71% of deaths due to infection.
Apart from the sports world, Hollywood also has quite a number of people who are against vaccination, such as comedian and former tourism ambassador for Taiwan Rob Schneider. Among all of the reasons for objecting to vaccines, the most frightening is still that of some conservative religious leaders. An internet-celebrity preacher said the vaccines are part of Satan’s plan to destroy humanity and warned his followers not to be deceived. Eventually, after contracting the virus himself and nearly dying, he claimed a spy for the Chinese Communist Party made him sick. Although these stories sound completely ridiculous, plenty of people believe vaccines are of the devil. There are also Qanon believers who think Bill Gates is using vaccines to track people, or that vaccines are some sort of system used to spread 5G. And others even claim that after the injection, the whole body becomes magnetic, turning people into something like the X-Men character Magneto.
When confronting COVID-19, there’s no time for each type of vaccine to slowly undergo entire approval procedures, and so certainly a health risk exists. But continued lockdowns are absolutely not a good long-term plan. Compared with continuing to be devastated by the virus, getting the vaccine is a risk most of humanity must take.
Immunity, of course, is obtained not only from vaccines, but also from infection. I only hope that when the time comes to choose between the two, people will make the best decision for themselves and society to end the pandemic as rapidly as possible. After all, do we want to believe doctors and scientists or someone like Stockton, who can’t even convince his own kids and grandkids?
The author is a sports writer.