A couple of former NBA legends had some strong reactions to John Stockton’s latest COVID-19 comments.
In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Stockton confirmed he is no longer allowed to attend basketball games at Gonzaga University, his alma mater, because he refuses to comply with the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The NBA’s all-time assist leader starred at Gonzaga for four seasons from 1980-84 before a 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Utah Jazz.
“Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit,” Stockton told The Spokesman-Review. “And therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups — those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up — they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”
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The 59-year-old, who appeared in a documentary last year promoting COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories, also asserted that more than 100 professional athletes had died after taking the vaccine. There is no scientific data that supports Stockton’s claims.
“I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court ,” Stockton said.
During an appearance on CNN, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized Stockton for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The NBA legend, who has been an outspoken advocate for the vaccines, previously called out Lakers star LeBron James for comparing COVID-19 to other illnesses.
“I think statements like [Stockton’s] make the public look upon athletes as basically dumb jocks for trying to explain away something that is obviously a pandemic, and the best way to fight pandemics is through vaccination and testing,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Those are the means by which we identify the problem and do our best to mitigate it.
“I don’t understand anyone saying anything else that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense what he’s saying. This is a preventative measure that has been useful in many different circumstances.”
Former SuperSonics star Detlef Schrempf shared his thoughts on Twitter, calling Stockton “bats— crazy.”
“I am so disappointed we have so many role models not up to the task,” Schrempf tweeted. “This is not helping!”
Despite receiving criticism and knowing his tickets would be suspended, Stockton has been unwilling to change his stance on Gonzaga’s mask mandate. He hopes that his “strained” relationship with the school can eventually be repaired.
“There’s probably a lot of different directions this can go, and I think time will tell on all of that,” Stockton said. “My focus is to maintain that relationship, as is theirs. They’ve made it very clear that we’re important to each other and I don’t think that’s going to change. However, there are some absolute impasses that we’re going to figure out.
“I’ve been around here a long time, so I don’t expect things to linger, whatever they may be.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.