Dwight Howard sparks backlash for his stance on mask and vaccines

The NBA star doesn't see the need for masks given the player's isolation in the 'bubble'

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In a wide-ranging Instagram Live, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard answered a bunch of fan questions. During the almost hour-long video, he made his feelings clear about mask-wearing and vaccines in the age of COVID-19.

Like the members of the 22 teams that are sequestered in Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, Howard is expected to follow the 133-page coronavirus protocol which includes mask-wearing, social distancing, and testing. The limited exceptions to the rules include when teams are scrimmaging in preparation for the league’s return on July 30th.

Read More: 72 NFL players reportedly test positive for COVID-19

Given that the teams are so isolated from the rest of the world, Howard doesn’t think that the masking is necessary.

Dwight Howard NBA coronavirus bubble thegrio.com
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“They sanitize everything,” Howard in the Instagram Live video that he recorded on Sunday. “We’re getting tested every day. So, it’s not like we’re around anybody that can give it to us because we all get tested together. And so, we’re only around each other. We’re only around everybody that’s in the bubble. We don’t see any outsiders. We don’t have any contact with any outsiders.”

Howard continued that he wasn’t aware that COVID was “flying through the air looking for people.”

Howard also said that someone has already called the so-called “snitch” line in Orlando to report him for not wearing a mask. Players can report each other anonymously if they fail to maintain COVID protocols.

Howard also responded when asked if he would get a vaccine if and when it became available.

“Do I believe in vaccinations?” Howard said to the fan. “No, I don’t. That’s my personal opinion, but no, I don’t.”

Howard, 34, who was averaging 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Lakers before the season was interrupted by the coronavirus, is expected to contribute to the Lakers team. He is very likely to remain in the bubble at least through the playoffs, if not, all the way to the NBA Finals.

The Finals will begin on September 30th and have to end by October 13. The 2020-2021 season is right now scheduled to begin on December 1, but there is speculation that it may move later, depending on how the restart goes.

That means Howard could go a ways until he can completely be free of mask-wearing. He says he’s already received a warning. What he can’t understand is why people are fixated on his behavior when there are bigger things to contend with.

Breonna Taylor, the people who did the heinous incident against her, they’re still free,” Howard told The Los Angeles Times before this latest controversy about his mask-wearing erupted.

“They’re out there living their best life. Instead of worrying about if I have my mask on or not, that’s something we should be discussing. Why haven’t these people been brought in? Why haven’t they been charged for anything or even arrested for what they’ve done?”

The NBA says it has tested all 346 players in the Orlando bubble and announced that after a week, none have tested positive.

As for what happens going forward, Lakers coach Frank Vogel says Howard knows what’s at stake.

Read More: WNBA responds to Atlanta Dream co-owner’s anti-BLM comments

“He was part of those programs over Zoom,” Vogel said to reporters this week, according to ESPN.

“And everybody has to make personal choices with this. Worldwide, everybody’s making personal choices. For us, we want to make sure we follow the NBA protocols they’ve laid out for us to help us remain as safe as possible. There’s no 100%, risk-free environment inside the bubble, and we just want to be as diligent as we can following those protocols.”

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