Vaccinate NBA Stars First, Says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

(Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Turner Sports)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Hall of Fame basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar argued in a Feb. 1 New York Times op-ed that professional basketball players should be allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine sooner than members of the general population.

“Black people have reason to distrust the federal government’s response to Covid-19,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote in his op-ed. He pointed to the Tuskegee study, in which black men were injected with syphilis as part of a medical experiment, and other data suggesting that African-Americans are more likely than whites to receive substandard medical care.

“Health policy professionals suggest that public health campaigns using celebrities should focus on celebrities who are influential in particular communities in order to build trust,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “N.B.A. players, 81.1 percent of whom are Black, appeal to the under-35 and African-American demographics.”

As few as 40% of African-Americans might be willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a study published in August 2020 by The Lancet.

Abdul-Jabbar argued that allowing young NBA players, who are less likely than the elderly to experience COVID-19 complications, to receive COVID-19 vaccinations sooner would build trust with black communities.

Abdul-Jabbar, 73, has already received his COVID-19 vaccination due to his age. The former star allowed the NBA to film him receiving the shot for a Public Service Announcement.

Abdul-Jabbar is not the first NBA legend to call for basketball players to receive special vaccination treatment. Charles Barkley said on TNT’s Inside the NBA that basketball players should receive the vaccine sooner because they pay high taxes. (RELATED: Charles Barkley Says Pro Athletes Deserve ‘Preferential Treatment’ With The Coronavirus Vaccine Because They Pay High Taxes)

Abdul-Jabbar rejected Barkley’s rationale in the op-ed, writing that his “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.”