How much influence does one athlete, one Black man, have on other Black men and women? On all of American society? We saw and felt some of that Tuesday on the first anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death. The television clips, words of tribute, an unspeakable tragedy followed by 12 months of political chaos and pandemic death.
“I’m amazed it has been a year already,” Geno Auriemma said. “Amazed so much has transpired since last January. It doesn’t seem that long ago, does it? Yet given all that’s happened, it seems like forever ago.”
Among the few selected to speak at the memorial for Kobe and his daughter Gianna at Staples Center, Auriemma said he walked into his restaurant in Manchester the other day. He looked up at the television and sure enough, there was a string of Kobe highlights.
He stood there and watched. The shots. The stares. The Mamba mentality that anything, especially in the most critical moments, was possible.
“It was good to get reminded, really good,” UConn’s Hall of Fame coach said. “And being reminded brings a lot of melancholy. It’s still hard to grip. Hard to fathom. All the noise that has happened this past year, all the incredible Hall of Famers that have died. Death has been a big part of this year. But his death? That’s a hard one to reconcile.”
Death is never easy to reconcile. And as Auriemma said, so many great athletes died over the last 12 months. From Tom Seaver to Tom Heinsohn, from Whitey Ford to Floyd Little, athletic heroes who meant so much to us. Kobe was so damn young.
None were perfect, although we often project perfection upon them. That isn’t fair, yet it does give indication of their influence. The anniversary of Kobe’s death is a reminder of how influential. And this leads to an ethical argument that puts me at odds with what I’ve read among some columnists and talk show hosts, certainly the overwhelming majority of what I’ve seen on social media.
NBA players, certainly the big stars, should receive the vaccine for COVID-19 much sooner than later. There. Said it. Meant it.
Charles Barkley said it, too, but he said it in the worst possible way. He said NBA players should get it because they pay the most taxes. Good grief, Chuck, that is a stupid statement.
The argument against anyone getting the vaccine quicker than someone else is everywhere. Even those who operate the various sports leagues parrot those words out of self-defense. No matter how much money they make, no matter how famous they are, sentiment against allowing a group to cut in line is strong, even vicious.
No compromise, zero exceptions: Healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities first. Frontline essential workers and those 75 and older second. Other essential workers, those 65-74 and those 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions third.
Don’t care what your vertical is. No jumping the line.
As soon as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was speaking with medical officials the other day, the hate on social media toward the idea of inoculating NBA players soon was disturbing and, at times, revolting. And the ones who weren’t filled with hate were filled with bewilderment at how this idea could even be considered.
Me? I’m baffled why we wouldn’t use hundreds of athletes and celebrities to help save hundreds of thousands from getting COVID and many thousands from dying. The American government used entertainers and athletes to raise hundreds of millions in war bonds that helped us win World War II. Can’t we use them to win the war against a pandemic?
“Several public health officials — and this is operating state by state right now — have suggested there would be a real public health benefit to getting some very high-profile African Americans vaccinated to demonstrate to the larger community that it is safe and effective,” Silver said.
The mistrust among the Black population in America for the COVID vaccine is significantly higher than other groups and, given matters like the immoral Tuskegee Experiment that lasted 40 years, no wonder there is lingering mistrust. The purpose of the study started by the Public Health Service in 1932 was to observe untreated syphilis. The 600 Black men who participated in the study were told that they were receiving free health care. They weren’t told they weren’t getting penicillin. It was cruel and shameful and racist. And, in case you haven’t been watching, 2020 was kind of like 1932.
So when the Pew Institute did a study that was released in November, should we have been surprised that only 42 percent of African Americans said they’d take the vaccine when it became available, despite 71 percent saying they knew someone hospitalized or died from COVID-19? A survey in December by Kaiser showed that 61 percent would take the vaccine. Either number shows less confidence by African Americans, who have died disproportionately from COVID-19, than the rest of America. Blacks have died at twice the rate of white and Asian Americans.
So does it bother me that 500 players in the NBA get the vaccine? No.
And to at least get it into the arms of the highest-profile players? That should be a demand. That’s called a public service that could save thousands of lives.
The scare tactic is to sound like vaccines are running out. No, a lousy job was done distributing the vaccine. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the purchase of an additional 200 million doses of the two COVID-19 vaccines with the goal of getting everyone vaccinated by the end of the summer. That, in part, hinges on everyone wanting to get vaccinated.
The 40, 50, 60 percent of the Black population that doesn’t want to take the vaccine needs to be convinced, not ignored.
Vice President Kamala Harris publicly got an injection the other day. There was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar getting one and pushing the word. But tell me LeBron James and Steph Curry and others wouldn’t have a significant effect, especially if they’re lining up with Obama and Oprah.
Hey, I’m for some rappers getting injections in the next month.
You’re going to tell me 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 injections couldn’t help save 100,000 lives? Believe what you want to believe, but I insist they would.
“I had a conversation like that with my team,” Auriemma said. “Everyone on the team gets a flu shot. So do I. I said we can’t make you, but I don’t know if someone on our medical staff would take it right in front of you and then give it to you knowing that it wouldn’t be beneficial to you. So if that alleviates any of your misgivings or you have trust issues … then again, I can’t make you take it, you have to voluntarily take it.
“Giving NBA players, in essence a PSA, a dose, does it bring attention where it’s sorely needed? Yeah, I believe that. I believe that. Kids look up to those guys. People look up to those guys. Well, at least people from blue states who are rational look up to those guys. So if they would decide, ‘Hey, I can do this as a means of trying to get you to understand it’s safe. That I certainly wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it wasn’t safe,’ I don’t think that constitutes anyone saying they’re getting preferential treatment. I’d be in favor of that. Absolutely. It’s a great idea. It’s a great cause.”
Hey, I’m 65. My turn’s coming up.
Kemba Walker, if you go on television to convince folks in Boston, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport to all get the vaccine, take my spot.
Credit: Source link