Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to NBA players refusing COVID-19 vaccine: 'Lives are at stake'

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been outspoken in his advocacy for the COVID-19 vaccine, and he has a message for the 5% of NBA players who still have not gotten it.

"Lives are at stake. It's important here. People are dying," Abdul-Jabbar told Yahoo Sports. "The ignorance that has been perpetrated and the misinformation that has been spread around everywhere has made it impossible for people to get an understanding of what is going on. 

"People who say they haven't finished doing the research yet, really haven't done any research."

This week, as NBA training camps opened for the 2021-22 season, a number of players declined to disclose their vaccination status or have publicly said they don't plan to get the vaccine.

The Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors' Andrew Wiggins are the highest-profile names because their local markets (New York City and San Francisco, respectively) have mandates in place that would exclude unvaccinated players from participating in home games. The NBA said this week that players who miss games because of local vaccine mandates will have their pay docked.

"They made it impossible for us to understand what they are saying. What's important here? People dying or the fact that they want to be private about getting vaccinated?" Abdul-Jabbar told Yahoo Sports.

"... This is not just a game that they're playing. This is important, and people have to understand what's going on here. The information that you need is not that hard to get. And you'll see that the vaccines are safe and they're effective. That's all you gotta know. Save your life, don't transmit it to someone in your family that you love and care for and you have to live with the fact that you helped transmit it to that person. We don't want that to happen. So, let's get with it."

The NBA's proposed health and safety protocols for the upcoming season also would make it difficult for unvaccinated players, setting limits on where they can go and keeping them away from vaccinated teammates in all setting except on the court. 

Abdul-Jabbar was part of a league-released PSA in January encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine

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