The NBA season began on October 19. The early part of the season is ripe with potential: What will happen? Each team will have its narrative and potential soap operas, but the overriding story at the beginning of the NBA’s 2021-22 season is vaccination status.
Notable holdouts like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins have seen the light or caved to pressure from teammates and others to get vaccinated, resulting in a 95% vaccination rate among NBA players.
Perhaps we can thank the cities like New York, San Francisco and elsewhere for requiring all adults to be vaccinated to attend large public indoor gatherings – players don’t earn if they don’t play. However, while vaccination status is certainly not as apparent of a social issue as police brutality, institutional and individual acts of racism, and gun violence in Black communities, players should very much regard vaccinations as a social issue.
The number of fatalities doesn’t lie
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are two to three times more likely to die from COVID. A Boston University School of Public Health study found that states’ institutional racism is responsible for the higher death rates among minorities – it estimated that 25,000 fewer Black Americans would have died if they died at the same rate as white Americans. The higher rate is attributed to inadequate health care and economic barriers leading to unhealthy eating, social barriers and a lack of trust.
It’s time to step up
Not taking a stance about improving the general health of the marginalized is no different than not speaking out against gun violence and not celebrating Black Lives Matter. Trying to sidestep the issue by saying players need privacy in making their health care decisions essentially endorses the behavior of non-vaxers spreading the virus in vulnerable communities at a higher rate.
These players listen to doctors when it comes to surgery or medical diagnosis using medical technology, so the disconnect surrounding the shot needs to stop now. We all need to use the same playbook when fighting this virus because innocent lives in marginalized communities depend upon it. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way, but do not dismiss it as a social issue.