The NBA, covid, and sportswriting

It’s an inconvenient truth that resistance to the coronavirus vaccine is relatively strong among Blacks. This reality is too inconvenient to receive much attention from the mainstream media. It would rather talk about resistance among rural Whites.

However, the inconvenient truth on this subject cannot easily be suppressed on the sports page. When high profile black athletes refuse to be vaccinated, that’s sports news. And a number of black stars (as well as white ones) are refusing.

Bradley Beal is a star guard for the Washington Wizards. D.C. sportswriters love him because he’s a great player, a good guy (by all accounts), and an advocate for “social justice.”

Beal stunned the D.C. media this week when he said at a press conference that he wasn’t vaccinated and doesn’t intend to be. Candace Buckner, the latest addition to the Washington Post’s collection of woke scold sports columnists, was crushed. She found his comments on the subject “jarring.”

In the paper edition, her column is called “Beal’s vaccine comments show how little we really know him.” I think I know Beal as well, or as little, as I did before he shocked the D.C. sportswriting establishment.

Buckner omits two important facts from her column. First, Beal tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus in the summer (but had no symptoms). Thus, his immunity arguably is as good as or better than Buckner’s.

Secondly, as far as I know, not a single athlete in a major American professional sports league or a top European soccer league has died from the virus. There may be an exception or two, but I’m not aware of any. When I checked on this in 2020 I found none, and this current list of athletes who passed away in 2021 doesn’t include any, either.

I’m not saying Beal is making the best decision by not being vaccinated. But his decision is neither irrational nor cause for revising our opinion of him, in my view.

Buckner’s article exhibits some nuance. That’s more than can be said for this screed by the Post’s Sally Jenkins, the mother of all scolds.

Jenkins’ target is Kyrie Irving, another outstanding NBA guard. She ridicules Irving mercilessly for 15 monotonous paragraphs over his stance, or non-stance, on the vaccine.

I’m no fan of Irving. Far from it. But Jenkins’ column is over-the-top. As far as I can tell his sin, other than not being intelligent enough for Jenkins’ taste, is refusing to say at this time whether he will be vaccinated before the season begins. The horror!

But even taking the vaccine and publicly saying so isn’t enough to satisfy the Post. Ben Golliver, who covers the NBA for the paper, seems unhappy that Lebron James, though having been vaccinated, isn’t encouraging other player to follow suit. James says, “I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and livelihoods.”

I see nothing wrong with this statement. NBA players have plenty of resources they can consult in deciding whether to take the vaccine. They don’t need Lebron James’ opinion. His extraordinary ability to play basketball doesn’t make him an expert on the pros and cons of anti-covid vaccines.

It’s unusual for sportswriters to criticize mainstream NBA stars. These guys are Black (in most cases), popular, and often active in leftist causes.

I find it interesting that disagreeing with covid orthodoxy, or refusing to promote it, apparently trumps all of this, whereas shilling for Red China and calling for the death of a police officer do not.

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