Lamar Jackson has a responsibility to be better than this.
Not just because he’s the quarterback of a Super Bowl contending team in Baltimore, but because whether he likes it or not, he’s a role model for a significant part of the Black community.
So, frankly, it’s unacceptable that Jackson said that he’s still on the fence about being vaccinated after testing positive for COVID-19 for the second time in eight months.
“I feel it’s a personal decision. I’m just going to keep my feelings to my family and myself,” said Jackson, who spoke about the vaccine to reporters at practice on Monday. “I’m focused on getting better right now. I can’t dwell on that right now ... how everybody else feels.
“I’m just going to follow the NFL protocols as much as I can, as best as I can,” said Jackson, who was held out of the Ravens’ Week 12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last season because he tested positive for COVID. “I’m not worried about it. Last year, [when] I came off COVID[-19], I felt like we did pretty good, and this year, I’m trying to do the same thing, if anything. So, just like I said, I’m just going to follow the protocols.”
Jackson is a former MVP and one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He has a unique brand as an athlete playing the most important position in American sports. His words and most importantly, his actions hold weight especially to people who look like him.
The COVID virus and its multiple variants have caused significantly more damage to Black communities than white communities. Yet Black people are still the least vaccinated demographic group.
If Jackson got vaccinated and pushed the importance of Black people protecting themselves from COVID, you’d see a significant number of people follow suit and it’ll help this nation turn the tide of this deadly virus after nearly two years.
It’s not a secret that Jackson has this level of power.
Last week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called for Jackson to get vaccinated in an interview with WBAL Radio.
“Lamar’s gotta get [vaccinated],” Hogan said. “With the rules the NFL put down, I can’t imagine a team wanting to forfeit a game or lose a chance at the playoffs and none of the players getting paid because someone won’t get a vaccine.”
In July, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams to try to increase pressure on players to get vaccinated. If teams experience an outbreak amongst unvaccinated players the game could be forfeited if the NFL can’t find a way to reschedule it. However, the NFL schedule is the least of my worries with Jackson.
Jackson admitted he was fatigued during his quarantine and head coach John Harbaugh said that this virus hit Jackson hard this time. This should give Jackson the motivation he needs to go ahead and be an example for the Black community.
The Baltimore quarterback has an audience that’s even different from other Black quarterbacks in the league. Jackson could speak directly to a new group of individuals and disprove the dangerous myths that are associated with the vaccine. This could be pivotal in changing the perceptions that many people have.
It’s something that the former Heisman Trophy winner is used to. He changed the narrative about which position he should play in the NFL and how the quarterback position should be played on the highest level. His impact on the game today is undisputed.
He could do the same thing with the vaccine. If he used his voice to champion the safety of the Black community during this pandemic, he could be an even bigger game-changer.