NBA commissioner Adam Silver has long said that players in his league would not jump the line to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The bigger problem might be getting stars into line.



Lakers forward LeBron James in the first half against the Nuggets on Feb. 14 in Denver. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)


© (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Lakers forward LeBron James in the first half against the Nuggets on Feb. 14 in Denver. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Lakers star LeBron James was asked Sunday morning if he planned to get vaccinated “as soon as it’s available” and if he would advise other players to do so.

“That’s a conversation that my family and I will have,” James said. “Pretty much keep that to a private thing.”

His sentiment is not unique. Asked the same question by the same reporter, Brooklyn’s James Harden said he’s still thinking about whether to get vaccinated. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who had the virus last March, said he was undecided while he was trying to learn as much as possible about the vaccines.

According to the latest data from the CDC, 7% of vaccine recipients have been Black — although U.S. Census data show Black people make up an estimated 13.4% of the population. Distrust as a consequence of events such as the Tuskegee experiments and inequitable access to vaccines are viewed as contributing factors in the disparity.

“We had a Zoom call with a few doctors talking about the vaccine. And, you know, obviously, in the African American community, there’s always a lot of skepticism … because the history of medicine and use with African Americans,” Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said last week. “So, obviously, we have that there, but at the same time, I think, what you don’t know, you don’t know. So, obviously, over the past couple of weeks with the vaccine, there’s been good feedback and positive reports on it. So, with the science there, you know, you have to take a look at it.”

Silver said the NBA didn’t have plans to make vaccinations mandatory.

“In terms of the education efforts, those are ongoing,” Silver said Saturday. “I think ultimately these are personal decisions that players need to make, just like everyone in our communities need to make. We see our role, together with the Players Assn., [as] providing them with the best possible information and also encouraging them to seek out information on their own. They have personal physicians, others they may rely on.”

Players who have been vaccinated may be able to avoid missed games related to contact tracing while enjoying “some real advantages and benefits” if vaccinated.

“We’ll make additional progress if players get vaccinated, but it certainly doesn’t require that they all get vaccinated,” Silver said.

“I also anticipate — we’re seeing this now both, I think, in actual numbers of people getting vaccinated in the United States, and opinion polls — that people are becoming more willing to get vaccinated. To those who have been hesitaters, I think as tens of millions of people now in the United States have gotten the vaccine that people are seeing, at least in the short term, what the impact is, and they’re hearing about how incredibly effective these vaccines are.

“My hunch is,” Silver added, “that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated. It’s a personal decision, but I think especially … when they see the alternative.”

James has not entered the league’s health and safety protocols, an action spurred by a player’s positive test or confirmed exposure to someone who has tested positive.

“I think it’s all luck, man,” James said. “I can’t sit here and tell you I’m an expert on this whole thing. It’s just luck. You have no idea how you can contract it or how you can get it. We know the cases, we know the studies, we hear the doctors and the things of that nature, and I’ve just tried to follow protocol as much as it’s been laid out to us.

“I go to the facility. And I go home. And I go to the arena. And I go home.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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