NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the league has explored the possibility of setting up NBA players to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
During a virtual conference with Sportico, Silver spoke about how the coronavirus pandemic has had an outsized impact on people of color and that people of color have been hesitant to get the vaccine. He posited NBA stars could have a positive influence in that regard:
"There have been discussions," Silver said (via ESPN's Brian Windhorst). "It's something we're particularly focused on."
NBA Cares released a public service announcement Sunday that featured Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabber receiving the vaccine.
Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill interviewed National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, who explained how deep-seated misgivings toward the government could lead some people of color to avoid the vaccine:
"The sad fact, health care in our communities has never been anything other than subpar. Our community's suspicions about the bona fide ease of treatment that's offered to us as well, let's face it, Black pregnant women have an exponentially greater possibility of dying in childbirth, than their white counterparts, solely because of the quality of care that they receive. So you know, the African American players in the NBA are members of the African American community, that to the extent our community has certain sensitivities, not surprisingly, our players are going to have those sensitivities."
Goodwill referenced the Tuskegee Experiment, which ran from 1932-72. Under the guise of providing the subjects with free health care and other benefits, scientists from the U.S. Public Health Service were actually looking into the effects of untreated syphilis in Black men. The Washington Post's DeNeen L. Brown wrote in May 2017 how the study "destroyed the trust many African Americans held for medical institutions."
When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, Silver said in December that NBA players wouldn't be treated as a priority group.
The league received criticism early into the pandemic for utilizing rapid COVID-19 testing at a time when testing supplies were scarce. Responding to the controversy, Roberts put the onus on the U.S. government to make tests more widely available.
In December, Silver said the NBA can't require players to take the COVID-19 vaccine unless the current collective bargaining agreement is amended.
"But, again, as time goes on, I think more people will recognize the importance of getting vaccinated and, again, not just for themselves, this is a conversation we've already begun with some members of the NBA community," he said.