Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants sports stars to promote Covid-19 vaccinations

NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he’s supportive of teams and players using their platforms to promote Covid-19 vaccinations.

The former National Basketball Association star joined CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Monday and discussed getting vaccinated. Abdul-Jabbar revealed he received his vaccination shots this month and said the league should promote awareness to help slow Covid-19 infections.

“From what I’ve seen, the vaccination is much less worse than the virus,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “So, we have to get as many people vaccinated as possible. And I hope every effort toward that end is fruitful.”

President Joe Biden has set a goal to administer 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots within his first 100 days. Abdul-Jabbar mentioned the Black community’s importance to get vaccinated but acknowledged the history around the Tuskegee Experiment for the mistrust of vaccinations among Black people.

The event dates back to 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama, when Black men were given placebos to treat syphilis. In 1972, the Associated Press reported the federal government allowed the men to go untreated for over 40 years, as penicillin was revealed to be the disease’s treatment in 1947.

“That took a terrible toll on the issue of trust with the Black community,” Abdul-Jabbar said of the experiment. “We have to overcome that, and we have to get past that moment. The more people who can get on board with promoting vaccinations will definitely help change that and put that in a positive light.” 

In a Pew Research poll conducted in November,  only 42% of Blacks surveyed say they plan to be vaccinated, compared with more than 60% of Americans overall.

The NBA released its latest Covid-19 report on Jan. 20, which revealed 11 new players tested positive. Abdul-Jabbar called on players make public service announcements about vaccinations. Asked if athletes should get special access to vaccinations, Abdul-Jabbar said no.

“I don’t think you can move people out of the line, so to speak, to let sports stars get to the front of the line,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “But anyone who has a following in our country can do a great job of getting people to understand that they need to be vaccinated ASAP. And I don’t think there is any problem with that.”

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