NBA Vaccine Skeptics Speak Out as Internal Debate Rages
Around 90% of NBA players are vaccinated, but the lack of a player mandate has caused rifts in the league.
NBA Vaccination Battle
Several skeptical and anti-vaccine NBA players refused to discuss their vaccination status during the league’s team media day on Monday, prompting continued debate surrounding basketball stars and vaccine hesitancy.
While the NBA has said that 90% of its players are vaccinated against COVID-19, there is no mandate in place for players — even though there is one for all referees, along with league and team staffers who work closely with the players.
While the league pushed for vaccines to be required, numerous outlets have reported that the player’s union refused because a small but very vocal minority has basically set the agenda and railroaded the conversation.
There have been some outside efforts to ensure players are vaccinated. For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a rule requiring sports arenas to require all employees and guests ages 12 and up to prove they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That policy made no exceptions for religious or medical exemptions.
A similar mandate was also enacted in San Francisco, California, though players, staff, and attendees there are required to show that they are fully vaccinated.
Due to the mandates, unvaccinated players from the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, and the San Francisco Golden State Warriors are banned from playing in their teams’ own 41 home games. The NBA has said teams do not have to pay players for missed games — a fact that would mean massive losses for major stars that bring in tens of millions each season.
Players Spread Skepticism, Misinformation
That, however, does not appear to be enough incentive for some players who voiced skepticism or openly spread misinformation when asked about their vaccination status during Monday’s media junkets.
One of the most talked-about clips involved Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who refused to answer four different questions about his vaccination status while speaking via Zoom at the event held at Barclays Center.
“I would like to keep all that private,” he said. “Please just respect my privacy. All the questions leading into what’s happening, just please. Everything will be released at a due date once we get this cleared up.”
While Irving was coy about whether or not he had received the jab, multiple outlets reported that he called into the presser because of the league’s health protocols. Irving’s aunt, Tyki Irving, who runs his family foundation and is in his regular circle of advisors, told Rolling Stone in an interview published this weekend that the star player was was unvaccinated for reasons “not religious-based.”
“It’s moral-based,” she added.
The magazine also reported that Irving, who has been known to support conspiracy theories in the past, has “recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that ‘secret societies’ are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for ‘a plan of Satan.’”
Irving was not the only player who spread skepticism or even outright misinformation about COVID vaccines Monday. Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors, who was denied a request for a religious exemption on Friday, also refused to discuss his vaccination status.
Others still more directly expressed their doubts about the vaccine, like Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who missed the Olympics because he got COVID-19.
“Some people have bad reactions to the vaccine. Nobody likes to talk about that,” he told reporters. “What happens if one of our players gets the vaccine and can’t play after that? Or they have complications after that? Because there are cases like that.”
There have not been any publicly known instances of an NBA player being unable to play because of severe vaccine side effects, which are rare for anyone.
Beal does not have to get the shot to play in home games in Washington, D.C., which does not have mandates like New York or San Francisco.
Others Promote Vaccines, Condemn Hesitancy
Although the remarks from hesitant and anti-vax NBA stars gained the most media attention, plenty of other players used their time to promote vaccination.
“I have a lot of people in my family that I’m tight with and spend a lot of time around and I’m just not going to put their health or their lives in danger because, you know, I wanna hold a big research,” said Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, though noting he believes vaccination is a personal choice.
“I’ve had people in my family actually die and people actually lose their lives to it, and there’s a way for me to protect myself and the people that I love, I’m going to do it. You know, it’s pretty simple.”
Some more strongly condemned those who have spread skepticism or misinformation, arguing that their choices and decisions to broadcast them have a direct impact on public perception and hesitancy.
While speaking on CNN Monday night, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has argued that the NBA should have a vaccine mandate, took direct aim at Irving’s remarks earlier in the day.
“He’s hiding behind procedure here. Either you understand what’s going on and you’re going to do the right thing, or you don’t understand what’s going on and you’re going to continue to create all this confusion with your stance,” he said.
“I don’t think that they are behaving like good teammates or good citizens. This is a war that we’re involved in. And masks and vaccines — they are the weapons that we use to fight this war.”
Abdul-Jabbar also published an article on his Substack Monday further elaborating on the dangers of “more research” rhetoric, especially in Black communities.
“Athletes and other celebrities have a public platform to help alleviate this crisis and to save lives,” he wrote. “To not take on that responsibility harms the sports and entertainment industries, the community, and the country. Those who claim they need to do ‘more research’ are simply announcing they have done no research.”
That point was echoed by other prominent Black voices, such as sports reporter Vincent Goodwill. In an article Monday titled “Stop giving vocal minority of anti-vaxx NBA players the space to be loud and wrong,” Goodwill argued that players who use their platforms to spout false information should have those platforms taken away.
“In giving them the platform, we’re giving them what they want,” he wrote. “They have access to the greatest doctors in the world and will consult them for anything from the common cold to a torn-up knee, but they have apparently discovered something all the world’s greatest scientists have missed.”
“The volume should be turned down on those yelling into the mic. Even if minds can’t be changed, damage can be mitigated.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Rolling Stone) (The Los Angeles Times)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.