Some NBA players are expressing reluctance to participate in public service announcements promoting the coronavirus vaccine, ESPN reports. Unnamed sources told the sports network that the league has reached out to the agents of many high profile stars to be a part of the PSAs, but ambivalence from the players —which matches what is found broadly in the African American community —reflects a reluctance to receive the vaccine.
The sources say that players, none of whom are specified, have expressed reservations about getting the vaccine or encouraging others to take it. The NBA has done vaccine PSA before with LA Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Still, the league believes using elite stars —many of whom are Black—would have a greater influence on communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The NBA has been working with Dr. Leroy Sims, the league’s senior vice president of medical affairs to inform players on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy through mandatory team seminars. He told ESPN that he’s completed 20 of the seminars so far and plans on meeting with all 30 teams by Monday.
“I’ve tried to tackle misinformation —that the development process was rushed, that the vaccine can alter genetics, that the trials lacked diversity,” he said. . “I get the question of: ‘If I get this shot, is it going to impact my performance?’ I walked them through what the results were, about the different types of vaccine, and I conclude with the benefits of the vaccination.
“One of the elite players in the league said to me, ‘Dr. Sims, what you’re asking is for us to be spokesmen?’ My response was: Absolutely. Yes, we do want you to be spokesmen. We do want you to partner with us,” he went on to say. “But it’s multi-fold. Right now, they can’t get shots, but they can still show support for parents or grandparents getting their vaccines now; and when the time comes, they can show their support by speaking and telling people they’ve gotten it — or showing pictures of them getting it. “
In a call with league officials, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not try to go ahead of the general public to get vaccines to players but said a timeline of March or April is a possibility.
“In the African American community, there’s been enormously disparate impact from COVID … but now, somewhat perversely, there’s been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons,” Silver said last month. “If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”