NBA star LeBron James has never been one to play his cards close to his vest.
He’s been vocal about many issues, the NBA writ small and large, China, freedom of speech, and of course, ‘racial justice’ and ‘systemic racism.’
But when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, the future Hall of Famer has been coy and vague, even though the NBA, as well as all professional sports leagues, have been clear they want players vaccinated.
On Friday, ‘King James’ was asked by a reporter if the NBA’s playoff protocols have impacted his decision about getting the vaccine.
“Anything I do off the floor is predicated to my family, for the majority — for 99.9% of that,” James said, according to ESPN. “So it’s about the health and safety of my family, and that’s what it came down to.
“Me being available to my teammates on the floor is me taking care of my body. Me doing everything I can do to make sure I’m available both mentally, physically and spiritually, as well. But anything of that nature, that’s all family talk,” he added.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was a little displeased about James’ answer, and he made that clear Monday morning on “First Take.”
“He should be ashamed of himself. LeBron James should be ashamed of himself. It was weak, his response to it. It was leaderless. It was inexcusable for him not to provide a better explanation. I’m talking about his comments when asked about it,” Smith said.
“Everybody has the right to their own privacy. You don’t want to let people know whether you took the vaccine or not, that is your business. But there’s a whole bunch of things that LeBron James has elected to speak up about, that he felt was a detriment to our community,” he continued, meaning, of course, the black community. “Because he’s a leader and he wanted to bring attention and a voice that matters, he felt compelled to speak up. But on the matter of the vaccine, you got nothing to say all of these months.
“Nah. It don’t work that way. You either want to be out front and center, bringing a voice to issues, or you don’t. Period,” Smith went on.
“But in this particular instance, where it resonates more exponentially, is the fact that here you are LeBron James, you know what the safety protocols are for the NBA. You know how it looks. You know that it got Kyrie [Irving] held out for a bit longer than he was supposed to be held out, along with other players. But you do it anyway. Why did you do it? Because you’re LeBron James, and we all know who you are,” he added.
The ESPN analyst’s comments come after James was outed last week breaking the NBA’s protocols by attending a promotional event for a tequila brand that he has invested in, Lobos 1707.
As for Smith, he went on to discuss how the virus has impacted African Americans.
“With the vaccines, you’ve spoken out about everything else that you felt was detrimental to the African-American community,” Smith said. “And the whole COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be problematic — not just for everyone in the world — but in particularly, the African-American community. It’s affected us in a very detrimental way.”
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