Magic Johnson said unvaccinated NBA players let the league down: ‘I would never do that’

Johnson posted his own vaccination status on social media in hopes of encouraging the vaccine-hesitant to take the jab.

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Magic Johnson is weighing in on the vaccine debate by calling on every NBA player to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The NBA legend believes non-vaccinated players have an obligation to their teammates to get vaccinated.

“You have said to your teammates that you are going to be there for them, well, you can’t be there if you don’t get vaccinated,” Johnson told CBS News ahead of Opening Night of the league’s 75th anniversary season. “You letting them down and then that hurts our chances of winning a championship, I would never do that to my teammates. Never.” 

2019 BET Experience - Genius Talks Sponsored By Credit Karma - Day 2
Magic Johnson speaks during The Genius of Magic Johnson at the BET Experience on June 22, 2019. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for BET)

In 1991, the Lakers legend announced that he was HIV positive. In 2020, before the COVID-19 vaccines were disseminated to the public, he compared the impact of both viruses on African Americans.

“African Americans are leading in terms of dying from the coronavirus and most of them in the hospital are African American,” Johnson said on CNN last April. “We have to do a better job as African Americans to follow social distancing, stay at home and make sure we educate our loved ones and our family members and do what we’re supposed to do to keep safe and healthy. Then when you add that up, we don’t have access to health care, quality health care. So many of us are uninsured. That also creates a problem, too. Just like it did with HIV and AIDS.”

Johnson, 62, posted his own vaccination status on social media in hopes of encouraging the vaccine-hesitant to take the jab.

“That’s why I got my two shots and made sure I put it out on social media,” Johnson said. “First, I wanted to let my community know that it is safe and players…people listen to them [players] and follow them.” 

Former NBA player Charles Barkley, 58, has also chimed in by saying that unvaccinated players such as Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving should get vaccinated.

During TNT’s Inside the NBA show Tuesday, Barkley complained that the star guard will still earn millions this season despite being sidelined for refusing to comply with New York’s COVID-19 mandate.

“The only thing that bugs me is he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home,” Barkley said.

“I really am proud of the Nets for putting their foot down — for saying ‘no, we’re not going to deal with this half on, half off [situation],’” he said about the league banning Irving from the team until he gets vaccinated.

Irving, 29, will not be paid for games missed in New York but will be paid for away games, according to Netswire.

“First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people. I got vaccinated, I can’t wait to get the booster,” Barkley said before quoting NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself. Like Adam [Silver] said, you get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second. That’s what bothers me about this whole thing.”

Barkley also slammed the public comparisons between Irving and late pro boxing champ and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali. 

“People are saying he’s like Ali. First of all, don’t ever compare anyone to Ali. Ali went three years without boxing when he was the highest-paid athlete in the world,” Barkley said.

When Silver appeared on Inside the NBA earlier in the show to discuss Irving’s vaccination status, he urged the athlete to “get vaccinated, first and foremost for himself and his family. Next, for his teammates and his community and also for the league that I know he cares so much about.”

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