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NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asked LeBron James to make his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine clear due to his influence on the African-American community.
As the most popular basketball player on the planet, James has plenty of influence in the sports community, especially the African-American athletics community. James has routinely made his views on police brutality and racism clear, but has yet to do so about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I don’t talk about other people and what they should do. We’re talking about individual bodies. We’re not talking about something political or racism or police brutality. I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people do for their bodies and livelihoods … I know what I did for me and my family … But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and things they want to do, that’s not my job,” James said in September.
James’ comment is obviously well within his rights, but also does more harm than good. He added to that negative influence this weekend.
This past weekend, James posted the following meme on his Instagram account, comparing COVID-19 to the flu.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: LeBron James must make vaccine stance clear
Kareem penned an article, discussing how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the African-American community, at least in part due to their distrust of vaccines.
Abdul-Jabbar cites an article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine in the following statement:
“As of December 2020, about 97.9 out of every 100,000 African Americans had died from COVID-19, a third higher than that for Latinos (64.7 per 100,000), and more than double than that for whites (46.6 per 100,000) and Asians (40.4 per 100,000). According to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine site, ‘The overrepresentation of African Americans among confirmed COVID-19 cases and number of deaths underscores the fact that the coronavirus pandemic, far from being an equalizer, is amplifying or even worsening existing social inequalities tied to race, class, and access to the health care system.’”
As Abdul-Jabbar also states, James’ influence — especially his social following — make such statements, even in a meme, all the more troubling. Those who are unvaccinated are far more likely to be hospitalized or even die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated.
Any media, and even content as simple as a meme, can be harmful to the general public if it adds fodder to the argument against the vaccine or even attempts to make light of COVID-19 symptoms.