Report: NBA dealing with anti-COVID vaccine theories from Kyrie Irving, Jonathan Isaac and more

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·4 min read

The NBA has said that about 90% of its players are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 headed into the 2021-22 season.

That’s an impressive figure.

In order to get the entire NBA vaccinated and close that last 10%, however, it sounds like the league is going to have a tough time.

An in-depth feature from Matt Sullivan in Rolling Stone on Saturday detailed the issues the NBA is facing on that front including conspiracy theories, stars who don’t want to take the shot and other outspoken players digging in their heels.

That, at least in the eyes of Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, can’t stand.

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” Abdul-Jabbar said, via Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is reportedly spreading a debunked microchip theory regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving and the microchip theory

First things first, there aren’t any microchips in any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

This absurd theory has been debunked countless times already, and just doesn't make sense. 

This, however, hasn’t stopped that theory from spreading throughout NBA locker rooms.

According to Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving — who has a past filled with conspiracy theories — has reportedly been liking social media posts regarding “secret societies” that are “implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for ‘a plan of Satan.’”

This false theory has spread to several different locker rooms and group chats, more than a dozen current players, executives and others said.

While ridiculous, it’s easy to see how such a theory coming from Irving — who serves as the vice president on the executive committee of the NBA Player’s Association — could hinder the league’s goal of vaccinating all of its players.

Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is reportedly still unvaccinated, and proud of it. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Jonathan Isaac’s religious argument

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is unvaccinated, and, according to Rolling Stone, is very proud of that fact.

From Rolling Stone:

The Orlando Magic’s 23-year-old starting forward is deeply religious — and proudly unvaccinated. When NBA players started lining up for shots in March, Isaac started studying Black history and watching Donald Trump’s press conferences. He learned about antibody resistance and came to distrust Dr. Anthony Fauci. He looked out for people who might die from the vaccine, and he put faith in God.

“At the end of the day, it’s people,” Isaac says of the scientists developing vaccines, “and you can’t always put your trust completely in people.”

Isaac said he feels that unvaccinated players are both vilified and bullied, and doesn’t understand the league’s vaccine rules — which requires that unvaccinated players follow a stricter protocol. Both New York City and San Francisco are requiring that anyone entering public spaces like basketball arenas be vaccinated, too, including all players. 

While he’s entitled to his religious argument, longtime center Enes Kanter — a Muslim from Turkey and one of the more outspoken players in the league — isn’t having it.

Not only could that impact the team and “could literally change a whole season” if a player has to be sidelined with the coronavirus, but Kanter knows the science.

“If a guy’s not getting vaccinated because of his religion, I feel like we’re in a time where the religion and science has to go together,” Kanter said, via Rolling Stone. “I’ve talked to a lot of religious guys, I’m like, ‘It saves people’s lives, so what is more important than that?'”

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