“It’s not a big deal.”
This is what LeBron James said when he was asked yesterday if he had been vaccinated for COVID. It’s a question that largely went overlooked a couple of days ago amidst James’ play-in heroics, and tequila parties with Drake and Michael B. Jordan.
His teammate, Dennis Schröder, said in a German-language interview last month that he and James were the only Lakers not to receive a vaccine. Last week, though, Schröder implied that James had received his shots: “I’m the only guy that didn’t get vaccinated,” he told reporters. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
James caused an uproar on NBA Twitter over the party he attended last week, a decision that forced the NBA to rule on James’ eligibility for the playoffs because, technically, he’d violated the league’s health and safety protocols. The league ultimately decided against any discipline for James or the Lakers.
It’s an interesting situation, made even more complicated by James’ uncertain vaccination status. While I believe that not suspending James was the correct decision, it does now provide a precedent for other players in the league to get away with these types of actions moving forward. According to Adam Silver, as of a few weeks ago, over 70 percent of NBA players had received at least one shot. But even going into the last few games of the regular season, players were still missing games due to health and safety protocols.
The NBA has relaxed restrictions for players who are fully vaccinated and for teams who have 85 percent of their roster and staff fully vaccinated. James has said on multiple occasions that his decision on the vaccine would be a family matter, and I’m not here to chastise him for whatever decision he made, though I am a strong proponent of Black people getting vaccinated. But the fact is that COVID is still out there, and it still carries a risk. While I don’t blame James or the league for moving more freely now that the numbers are starting to decrease, it still needs to be said: We may not be completely out of the woods yet, especially if we are not fully vaccinated.
It’s clear that the NBA is starting to get back to normal. Some teams are starting to allow nearly full capacity for fans in the stands for playoff games this weekend. So LeBron isn’t the only one moving a little more freely now.
The NBA is finally emerging into the light at the tunnel’s end when it comes to COVID, and it’s not going to punish its fans or diminish its product over James bending the rules at this point.