LeBron James said during the Los Angeles Lakers’ media day that he has received the COVID-19 vaccine, confirming publicly for the first time that he is inoculated against the virus.
James noted that, when the vaccines were first released, he was “very skeptical” but after doing his own research decided it was “the right thing to do” for himself and the health of his family.
The Lakers superstar stopped short of openly advocating for others to be vaccinated, saying that it wasn’t his job.
“I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family,” he said.
Though 90 per cent of the league is believed to be vaccinated, James’ comments come in the wake of several high-profile players espousing a range of anti-vaccine sentiments.
In Brooklyn, after the Nets’ official media day concluded, Kyrie Irving conducted an Instagram Live version of media day in which he fielded questions from reporters. Irving was unable to attend the team’s media day in person at Barclays Center because municipal policies bar unvaccinated individuals from entering arenas.
When asked about his vaccination status, Irving said he’d “like to keep that stuff private” and insisted “the last thing” he wanted to create was “more hoopla and more distractions.”
Editor’s note: With overwhelming consistency, research has shown vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Residents of Canada who are looking to learn more about vaccines, or the country’s pandemic response, can find up-to-date information on Canada’s public health website.
In an extensively reportedly story by Matt Sullivan published in Rolling Stone magazine over the weekend, Irving’s aunt, Tyki Irving, was quoted as saying that Irving was unvaccinated for reasons “not religious-based, it’s moral-based.” The story did not specify when the interview took place, however.
Irving, who is a vice president on the NBA Players’ Association’s executive committee, is believed to be one of the leading player voices against vaccine mandates in the NBA, despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines reduce both the spread of the virus and the likelihood an individual will suffer severely adverse effects if they do contract COVID-19.
He’s far from the only notable name who’s touted baseless anti-vaccine sentiments. Last week, Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors had his request for vaccine exemption denied. Wiggins, who requested a religious exemption, will not be allowed to suit up for home games with Golden State until he is vaccinated.
“I’m confident in my beliefs and what I think is right, what I think is wrong,” Wiggins said on Monday, doubling down on his stance.
The NBA players’ union has not yet agreed to a vaccine mandate and, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, has denied the league’s proposals for one to be implemented. The referees’ union, however, has agreed to one. In the WNBA, 99 per cent of players were fully vaccinated by June without a mandate going into effect.
Despite the hesitancy from the likes of Wiggins and Irving, other high-profile players were, like James, open about their willingness to get vaccinated
“I’m not mad at people who say they need to do their research,” Damian Lillard, the star point guard of the Portland Trail Blazers, said on Monday. “But I have a lot of people in my family that I spend time around. I’m just not going to put their lives in danger. As a kid, I had to get shots my whole life.”
— With files from Sportsnet’s Emily Sadler