The NBA has responded to widespread criticism from fans and pundits alike for not punishing LeBron James when the LA Lakers icon was believed to have breached coronavirus protocol by attending a tequila brand event with Drake.
Since his appearance at the event, which was also enjoyed by Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan, James has been allowed to play against the Golden State Warriors and in Game 1 of a play-off series against the Phoenix Suns, which the Lakers lost 99-90.
This has led to accusations of double standards given that other players have been made to sit out matches due to rule violations.
Known for his outspoken views, a former MVP at the Suns – Charles Barkley – was one of the loudest voices criticizing the authorities when giving his thoughts on the matter at the weekend to Yahoo Sports.
“Let me tell you something,” Barkley began, making it clear first of all that he “loved” current NBA commissioner Adam Silver in addition to his late predecessor, David Stern.
“The NBA ain’t got the balls to suspend LeBron James. If it was a nobody, they would put him in health and safety protocols.
“Ain’t no f*cking way LeBron James is going to be sat out because of health and safety protocols.
“When I read that, I just started laughing. LeBron James is playing Sunday. Guaranteed,” he signed off.
Barkley was of course proven right, and subsequent further backlash has forced the league to come out and defend its position.
Warning: video contains swearing
Yesterday, NBA spokesman Mike Bass released a statement which began: “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.
“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.”
The highest profile case of a player being reprimanded came last month when the Houston Rockets’ Kevin Porter Jr received a $50,000 fine and missed games after allegedly visiting a strip club.
But the league, without citing examples, claimed that other NBA stars have also gotten off lightly like LeBron.
NBA issued statement earlier from Chief Communications Offer Mike Bass ‘to clarify any remaining misconception’ over LeBron James’ breach of the league’s Health and Safety protocols last week and why the breach didn’t result in a mandatory quarantine for James. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/r0WtsBFPf3
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 25, 2021
“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 players’ team in a similar fashion,” it said.
Lastly, the statement also noted that players who have already received the Covid vaccine are allowed to participate in outdoor events for the purpose of meeting sponsorship commitments, as Lebron did when attending the tequila party.
“Under current NBA rules, vaccinated players are permitted to engage in outside activities including their individual commercial arrangements such as sponsor appearances or ad shoots,” it confirmed.
LeBron won’t confirm or deny that he got the COVID vaccine: “It’s not a big deal.”
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) May 21, 2021
Though up to now, James has turned down the chance to reveal in public whether or not he has had his shot.
James has declined to publicly divulge whether or not he’s been vaccinated.
“Anything I do off the floor is predicated to my family, for the majority – for 99.9% of that,” he told the media recently.
“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.”
Then asked directly if he’d had the vaccine or not, James chuckled and insisted “it’s not a big deal.”
Looking to equal the series, the Lakers will take on the Suns in Game 2 this evening with James featuring.