Many Black NBA players wary about getting COVID vaccine. Here’s why

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets the COVID vaccine. Credit: AP
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets the COVID vaccine. Credit: AP

With so many players in need of information and insight [on COVID shots], sources say teams asked league officials for assistance when it came to vaccine education.

In short, the NBA wants its basketball people — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, potentially as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign. But a large majority of the players are African-American, a community that has been known to be distrustful of vaccines, in large part, because of the shameful history of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other examples of worse treatment and outcomes for Black men and women in encounters with the medical community than whites received.

According to a Pew poll of 12,648 people conducted from Nov. 18-29, just 42 percent of Black people intended to get the vaccine when it became available. The league has already released a series of commercials through its “NBA Cares” platform encouraging people to get vaccinated, with 73-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 86-year-old Bill Russell and 72-year-old Gregg Popovich featured in the spots.

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“I’m not sure,” said a coach, when asked if he’d take the vaccine if it was offered to him. “I think people who need it should get it first.”

“Our players are agnostic at best at this point,” said a team executive.

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