NBA defends decision not to suspend LeBron James over COVID violations

NBA officials said James' attendance at a recent promo event "did not create risks related to the spread of COVID-19."

The National Basketball Association is defending its decision to not suspend Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James after he broke with the league’s health and safety protocols last week. 

James attended an outdoor promotional event for Lobos 1797 Tequila, in which he is an investor. The May 17th gathering, which was also attended by Drake and Michael B. Jordan, was held outside and required attendees to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference first-round playoff series Sunday at Phoenix Suns Arena. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“It’s a violation of the agreed upon protocols, and, as we have in other comparable instances around the league, it has been addressed with the team,” a NBA spokesman told ESPN Friday.

However, on Monday, the league released a statement that confirmed the circumstances of James’ attendance.

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“To clarify any remaining misconception, LeBron James briefly attended an outdoor event last week where participants were required to be vaccinated or return a negative test result,” according to NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass. “Under these circumstances and in consultation with medical experts, it was determined that his attendance did not create risks related to the spread of COVID-19 and therefore no quarantine was necessary. Over the course of this season, there have been numerous similar violations of the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, which were addressed with the player’s team in a similar fashion.”

“Under current NBA rules, vaccinated players are permitted to engage in outside activities,” said Bass, “including their individual commercial arrangements, such as sponsor appearances or ad shoots.” 

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James has declined to share if he has been vaccinated against COVID-19. He says he’s chosen to keep the decision private. 

League commissioner Adam Silver has been quoted as saying that more than 70% of active players have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The NBA is currently in playoff season, and the Lakers are currently matched against the Phoenix Suns. 

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