Scott Stinson: Andrew Wiggins and other NBA vaccine holdouts have a (very) expensive decision to make

, Scott Stinson: Andrew Wiggins and other NBA vaccine holdouts have a (very) expensive decision to make, The Evepost National News

If Wiggins maintains his refusal to get a COVID vaccine, he could miss all of Golden State’s home games, and forego half his US$31.5-million salary

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In the fall of 2014, I went to Minneapolis to write a story about Andrew Wiggins, then the first-overall pick in the NBA draft who was about to begin his career with the Timberwolves.

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It was not a particularly fruitful trip. Wiggins was shy and quiet to the point of almost being mute, and even when he was away from the cameras to speak with a visiting Canadian reporter, he didn’t say much other than brief answers. Even as he grew into a player who was awarded a giant contract four years ago, the knock on Wiggins has been that his quiet off-court demeanour is too reflective of his on-court manner. If he’s going to ever fulfill his promise, he needs to be assertive, seize control of games, and generally just be the kind of player who wants to dominate.

So, there is considerable irony in the fact that Wiggins has finally become an NBA standout, just for the wrong reasons. The 26-year-old from the Toronto suburbs is one of the small number of players who, so far, has refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It could cost him more than US$15-million in lost salary this season, which if nothing else shows tremendous commitment to the cause.

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Just what the cause is, exactly, remains unclear. When the Golden State Warriors opened training camp this week, Wiggins refused to explain himself, telling reporters that his reasons for refusing the vaccine are “none of your business.”

“I don’t ask you about your beliefs,” he said. “I don’t ask you about what you guys think is right or wrong.”


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And that was pretty much that. Other players at least took a crack at explaining their rationale for refusing the same vaccines that almost all of their teammates have received, to say nothing of the millions of non-NBA players around the world who have taken them to great positive effect. Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic said that since had already recovered from COVID-19 and is strong and healthy, he had no reason to fear reinfection. This is true, although he has completely missed the part where one of the main reasons for vaccination is to reduce the risk of an infection that could be passed on to others, even if you, personally, are at low risk. Washington’s Bradley Beal asked why he should have to be vaccinated since some people who have received it are still catching the virus. And again, the answer is obvious: because while the vaccines do not offer perfect protection against COVID infection, they do offer excellent protection against the most serious outcomes in the event of an infection. (And they do sharply reduce the risk of transmission.)

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Issac and Beal have adopted positions that seem like they can be overcome by facts and logic, if their stated reasons are really the only reasons for reluctance.

, Scott Stinson: Andrew Wiggins and other NBA vaccine holdouts have a (very) expensive decision to make, The Evepost National News

It’s the cases like Wiggins, and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who has similarly said he will keep his thoughts on vaccination private, that are going to be harder to combat. Much like the members of the non-basketball-playing public who are wrapped up in ideas about personal freedom, how do you change someone’s mind when their explanation for not wanting a vaccine is, essentially, “because I don’t want one.”?

Wiggins expanded on this, sort of, the other day. He compared decisions about vaccination to parenting. Parents have different beliefs about the proper ways to raise children, and it’s generally accepted that not every family will have the same rules and expectations. Different people can have different beliefs about this issue, too, Wiggins said.

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“What you think is not what I think. What I think is not what you think,” he said.

And this is where it gets weird, whether it is Wiggins or your Uncle Bob or colleague Jimmy. In this case, he thinks he should not have to be vaccinated, and he doesn’t care who thinks otherwise. It’s just what he thinks.

For the team that employs him, this is a problem. San Francisco has passed a law that requires vaccinations in certain indoor settings, like the Chase Center where the Warriors play. If Wiggins maintains his refusal, he could miss all of Golden State’s home games, and forego half his US$31.5-million salary. The same applies to Irving in Brooklyn and anyone who has similar thoughts on the Knicks, as New York City has a vaccine requirement similar to that of San Francisco. Other cities and states (and provinces) could yet implement laws of that nature, especially if vaccine resistance continues. Wiggins, Irving and others who continue to refuse vaccines will put their teams at a massive disadvantage if they keep this up. And what they don’t seem to have accepted is that they can believe deeply in their freedom to refuse a safe, effective treatment, but the consequence of that decision is that they will hurt their teams and damage their careers, perhaps irredeemably.

It’s the same tradeoff that has to be considered by anyone in countless types of jobs at this point of the pandemic. Refuse that vaccine all you want, but you might lose your paycheque. Your thoughts are your thoughts, but the rest of society doesn’t have to embrace them.

Wiggins and his holdout peers have much more at stake than the rest of us with their obstinance. We shall see if their beliefs remain resolute.

• Email: sstinson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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