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NBA Vaccine Skeptics Speak Out as Internal Debate Rages

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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)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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