Hall of Fame basketball player John Stockton raised eyebrows with comments claiming that more than 100 professional athletes have died from the COVID vaccine in the middle of competitions.
The 59-year-old former point guard with 19 seasons playing for the Utah Jazz made his remarks during an interview with Spokane’s The Spokesman-Review. The newspaper noted over the weekend that Gonzaga University moved to suspend Stockton’s season tickets at home basketball games over disagreements on the school’s mask mandate.
“Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit,” Stockton said. “And therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups – those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up – they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”
But the newspaper also highlighted another comment made by the NBA legend who appeared last year in a documentary titled, “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.”
“During the interview, Stockton asserted that more than 100 professional athletes have died of vaccination. He also said tens of thousands of people – perhaps millions – have died from vaccines,” Spokesman-Review reporter Theo Lawson wrote.
“I think it’s highly recorded now,” Stockton said in the interview. “There’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead – professional athletes – the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court.”
Lawson followed with his take on the claims:
Such claims are dubious and not backed by science, nor are they deemed credible by medical professionals, according to FactCheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center, and research reported by PolitiFact, which is run by the Poynter Institute.
Stockton’s comments drew some predictable criticism on Twitter:
NBA HOFer John Stockton said that 100+ professional athletes have died from the COVID vaccine mid-game, despite zero professional athletes dying mid-game since the vaccine was created.
That statistic does teach us one thing – that the NBA may also have a problem with CTE.
— Steve Hofstetter (@SteveHofstetter) January 23, 2022
Looks like John Stockton and Aaron Rodgers both graduated from the University of YouTube. https://t.co/slGnALAlCX
— Matt Prehm (@MattPrehm) January 23, 2022
Speaking on Gonzaga’s decision, Stockton told the newspaper that he hoped their relationship would be repaired.
“I think certainly it stresses (the relationship with Gonzaga). I’m pretty connected to the school,” he said. “I’ve been part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was just born a couple blocks away and sneaking into the gym and selling programs to get into games since I was a small boy. So, it’s strained but not broken, and I’m sure we’ll get through it, but it’s not without some conflict.”
While he acknowledged his position due to his fame creates a unique challenge, Stockton is “unwilling to budge on his decision not to wear a mask,” according to the newspaper.
“I’m very concerned about my image,” said the famed Gonzaga alumnus whose No. 12 jersey was retired by the school.
“I understand I’m a public figure and they show me at every game, so they understand it as well. I take that responsibility very seriously, both when I’m around campus and when I’m not. It’s a lifestyle, so of course I do,” he added.
Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford provided a statement from the university to The Spokesman-Review on the mask policy:
“Gonzaga University continues to work hard to implement and enforce the health and safety protocols mandated by the State and by University policy, including reinforcing the indoor masking requirement. Attendees at basketball games are required to wear face masks at all times,” the statement read. “We will not speak to specific actions taken with any specific individuals. We take enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety protocols seriously and will continue to evaluate how we can best mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 with appropriate measures. The recent decision to suspend concessions in McCarthey Athletic Center is an example of this approach.
“There’s probably a lot of different directions this can go, and I think time will tell on all of that,” Stockton said. “My focus 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. However, there are some absolute impasses that we’re going to figure out.
“I’ve been around here a long time, so I don’t expect things to linger, whatever they may be.”
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