Scott Van Pelt: Vaccine Topic Is a Massive Hurdle for NBA, Will Continue to Be


Scott Van Pelt tackled something enormous for his 1 Big Thing segment on SportsCenter late last night. After a frustrating day of NBA players expressing vaccine hesitancy during their assorted media days, the anchor offered a clear-eyed look at the situation.

We are a divided society. It makes all the sense in the world that those divisions exist in the world of sport. It's important to understand that nearly 90 percent of the NBA is vaccinated and that such a rate is far higher than the public at large, which is currently around 56 percent. We forget that players are, on balance, doing better on the issue than the rest of us because it doesn't feel like it. Especially in a content environment that amplifies the controversial and becomes a funhouse hall of mirrors reflecting the least constructive thoughts on this or any other issue.

Van Pelt drilled down on what has become a frustrating trend when an athlete, who has a platform to share legitimate concerns about the vaccine, either passes completely or stumbles through some vague explanation about doing more research. The necessary follow-ups are: where is this research being done and is the same research being done for the hundreds of other medical decisions encountered in the course of living. Those follow-ups tend to shut down the conversation instead of advancing. Rinse and repeat.

"I don't know why athletes who have trusted doctors their entire careers to care for ailments suddenly distrust them on this specific issue," Van Pelt said. "If there were internet threads about how having your ACL repaired with a ligament from a cadaver would turn you into a mutant, maybe they'd be hesitant to do that too. I don't know. I also don't know who people are trusting for their information and they're certainly not in a hurry to share. I do trust that this situation isn't going to have clarity anytime soon."

That last part is absolutely correct. Players like Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins are firm in their convictions and will surely exhaust all available avenues to find a way to not get the shot but still play as much NBA basketball as possible. Vaccine debates will continue to rage on regardless if it warrants debate or not. The 10 percent of the league that hasn't been vaccinated will get far more attention than the overwhelming majority that has. It's frustrating to all parties but probably inevitable.