Why Bazemore, others in NBA hesitant about COVID-19 vaccine


Pro athletes tend to be wary of being injected by needles containing stuff with which they are not familiar, even though some have made exceptions in the belief it will improve performance and, thus, increase salary and fame.

Their bodies are their temples, so it is with great suspicion that they view foreign substances -- even one that is generally thought of as a safeguard against severe illness or even death.

Such as the COVID-19 vaccines, which some NBA athletes are opposed to taking.

“No sir,” Warriors wing Kent Bazemore said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters.

Bazemore announced his stance two days after one of his teammates, forward Andrew Wiggins, said he’s unwilling to be vaccinated.

“I don’t really see myself getting it anytime soon,” Wiggins said, “unless forced to, somehow.”

Skepticism, particularly in the Black community, can be traced to a number of reasons. One, American history and the numerous occasions in which people of color have been unknowingly treated as guinea pigs. Two, there is suspicion related to many things being pushed by the government.

For elite athletes, those factors are compounded by their own health codes involving diet and nutrition and exercise, along with rest and sleep patterns. 

The Warriors have made no announcement of their intentions, nor do they have to. Though each person will make his or her own choice about taking a vaccine, a league source told NBC Sports Bay Area that the Warriors are expected to receive internal vaccinations very soon -- if not already.

The NBA is encouraging vaccination. The league on Wednesday sent a memo to all 30 franchises, according to ESPN, asking them to poll players and staffers in hopes of determining interest levels -- and possibly hosting and participating in vaccine clinics at arena sites or team facilities.

The pandemic has caused numerous disruptions to the schedule, and current health and safety protocols -- including contact tracing -- have sidelined dozens of players. The Warriors were hit hard in recent weeks, with rookie center James Wiseman entering protocols on two separate occasions and both Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall missing games for the same reason.

Several NBA teams already have joined millions of Americans in getting vaccinated. The New Orleans Pelicans were first, with some staffers and players getting vaccinated on March 13 after Louisiana expanded eligibility guidelines. The Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers followed, with the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly lining up players and staff to be vaccinated this week.

Lakers superstar LeBron James has not announced his plans, saying he considers the vaccination decision a “private thing” to be discussed with his family. He is as judicious as any player in the league about body treatment and maintenance.

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James is not alone, as many in the NBA are expressing reluctance.

“To each his own, really,” Wiggins said. “Whoever wants to get it, get it. Whoever doesn’t want to get it, don’t get it.”

Bazemore considers his decision  “a lifestyle thing,” as he is not keen on making allowances.

“I do everything I can to strengthen my immune system, with hours upon hours of cooking, preparing my meals at home, really being conscious of what I put in my body and taking care of my health,” he said.

“My family has a history of heart disease and all these different things, and I’m trying to turn that around for my lineage. So, I’m taking it upon myself to do everything I can to keep my immune system strong and live a healthy and long life.”

The wisest route is, as usual, through education. Black men and women, in particular, might find comfort after researching Dr. Kizzy Corbett. Do the homework and make an informed decision.

For most Americans, taking a vaccine is an easy decision. For athletes who make a very good living off their well-being and are acutely concerned, even paranoid, about ingesting unfamiliar substances, it can be complicated indeed.

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