A pair of former NBA legends had strong reactions to John Stockton’s latest comments on COVID-19.
In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Stockton confirmed that he is no longer allowed to attend basketball games at Gonzaga University, his alma mater, because he refuses to comply with the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The NBA’s all-time assists leader starred as Gonzaga for four seasons between 1980 and 1984 before a 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Utah Jazz.
“Basically, it came down to me being asked to wear a mask in games and being a public figure, someone a little more visible, standing out from the crowd a little bit,” Stockton told The Spokesman-Review. “And so they got complaints and they felt like from higher up, that was not discussed, but whichever was higher, they were going to have to ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”
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The 59-year-old, who appeared in a documentary last year promoting COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories, also claimed that more than 100 professional athletes had died after receiving the vaccine. There is no scientific data to support Stockton’s claims.
“I think it’s highly recorded now, I think there’s 150 now, it’s over 100 dead professional athletes, professional athletes, in the prime of their lives, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the field, right on the field, right on the court,” Stockton said.
During an appearance on CNN, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized Stockton for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The NBA legend, who has been an outspoken advocate for vaccinations, previously criticized Lakers star LeBron James for comparing COVID-19 to other illnesses.
“I think statements like [Stockton’s] making the public see athletes as basically dumb athletes for trying to explain something that is obviously a pandemic, and the best way to fight pandemics is through vaccination and testing,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Those they are the means by which we identify the problem and do what we can to mitigate it.
“I don’t understand why anyone is saying anything else that makes sense. What they’re saying doesn’t make sense. This is a preventative measure that has been helpful in many different circumstances.”
Former SuperSonics star Detlef Schrempf shared his thoughts on Twitter, calling Stockton “bats, crazy.”
“So disappointed that we have so many role models who are not up to the task,” Schrempf tweeted. “This is not helping!”
Crazy bat. I am so disappointed that we have so many role models who are not up to the task. This is not helping! https://t.co/E6FJdqArFk
— Detlef Schrempf (@Dschrempf) January 24, 2023
Despite receiving criticism and knowing his tickets would be suspended, Stockton has been unwilling to change his stance on Gonzaga’s mask mandate. He hopes his “strained” relationship with the school can eventually be mended.
“There are probably a lot of different directions this can go, and I think time will tell all of that,” Stockton said. “My approach is to maintain that relationship, as is theirs. They’ve made it very clear that we’re important to each other and I don’t think that’s going to change. There are some absolute deadlocks though that we’re going to find out.”
“I’ve been around a long time, so I don’t expect things to drag on, whatever they are.”