Charles Barkley says NBA, NFL players 'deserve' to jump line for COVID-19 vaccine

NBA and NFL leaders have said they won’t jump the line to get players and personnel vaccinated for COVID-19.

Charles Barkley has other thoughts on the matter.

Barkley: NFL, NBA players ‘deserve’ vaccine

On Thursday night’s “Inside the NBA,” the Hall of Famer asserted that players “deserve” to jump ahead of others because they pay more taxes.

“Three hundred million shots, give a thousand to some NBA players, NFL players, hockey players,” Barkley said. “As much taxes as these players pay. Let me repeat that: As much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment.”

Kenny Smith pushed back on it, seeming understandably astonished at Barkley’s take.

“For life and death?” Smith asked, to a “yes” from Barkley.

Barkley kept on with it even as the group tried to tell him taxes are based on income levels

“I said taxes. I didn’t say the amount of money you make,” Barkley said. “I said the amount of taxes these guys pay.”

“We can’t go there,” Smith said, shutting down that portion of the segment. “I don’t think you can go there.”

Ernie Johnson also vehemently disagreed and said the elderly and most at-risk should be taken care of first. Barkley did agree, adding first responders to the list, but kept on by saying giving “a thousand shots to NBA players is not going to change the world.”

Vaccine rollout largest in U.S. history

Charles Barkley and his statue.
Charles Barkley thinks taxes should determine who gets the vaccine first. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Giving a thousand shots to NBA players likely won’t change the world, which might be the point. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is the largest in the history of the United States and began last month with healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly for 10 months fighting the pandemic.

It has gone slower than initially anticipated with only between 2 million and 3 million people getting the first of the two-dose vaccine by Jan. 1, 2021. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes the country needs to vaccinate between 80 and 85 percent to achieve herd immunity.

There are guidelines for who is able to get the vaccine first and though they differ from state to state and region to region, it follows an understandable pattern that doesn’t include how much taxes one pays.

The New York Times has a COVID-19 vaccine timeline calculator to estimate when one might be able to get a vaccine. LeBron James, as an easy example, would likely be behind 268.7 million people in the U.S., 31 million in all of California and 7.9 million in Los Angeles county waiting to get the vaccine. That’s because he is 36 years old with no known COVID-related health risks and he is not a healthcare worker, essential worker, first responder or teacher.

NBA, NFL won’t jump the line

The NBA and NFL leaders have said they won’t try and jump the line to get people vaccinated. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said so outright.

“There's no way we'd ever jump the line in any form whatsoever," Silver said on ESPN days before the NBA season tipped. “And, for the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine.”

NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said it’s important they don’t appear to be getting in front, adding they wouldn’t want to “do anything that hinders the public health effort.” The NFL would have liked to have some players vaccinated with the Super Bowl, an expensive affair, coming up in a few weeks and COVID-19 cases rising.

There is the potential for athletes to use getting the vaccine as a public health campaign to help others get vaccinated and get the U.S. past the pandemic. Hank Aaron, 86, was vaccinated earlier this month with the goal of showing Black Americans that it’s safe.

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