Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has sparked backlash over a series of evasive responses to questions about the Covid-19 vaccine.
NBA fans were left fuming over the weekend when James escaped sanction despite breaking league rules regarding Covid-19.
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Now the four-time NBA championship winner is facing renewed criticism for what outspoken commentator Stephen A. Smith described as "inexcusable" answers to questions about coronavirus and whether he's been vaccinated.
James was particularly evasive last week when asked to share his feelings about the Covid-19 vaccine and whether he's had the jab.
“Anything I do off the floor is predicated to my family for the majority, or 99.9 per cent of that. It’s about the health and safety of my family.
“That’s what it came down to. Being available to my teammates on the floor is about taking care of my body and me doing everything I can to make sure I’m available both mentally, physically, and spiritually as well.
“But anything of that nature is all family talk.”
When asked to clarify whether he'd received the vaccine James hesitated before replying: "Ahhhh, it’s not a big deal".
However, Smith certainly does think it's a big deal and speaking on ESPN's First Take program, the TV personality criticised LeBron for so actively speaking out for other important issues such as racial equality, but failing to do so on Covid-19.
“He should be ashamed of himself. LeBron James should be ashamed of himself,” Smith said.
“It was weak, his response to it, it was leaderless. It was inexcusable for him not to provide a better explanation.
“Everybody has the right to their own privacy. You don’t want to let people know whether you took the vaccine or not, that is your business. But there is a whole bunch of things that LeBron James has elected to speak up about, that he felt was a detriment to our community, because he wanted to bring attention and a voice to matters. He felt compelled to speak up.
“But on the matter of the vaccine, you’ve got nothing to say all of these months. Nah. It doesn’t work that way. You either want to be out front and centre, bringing a voice to issues, or you don’t.”
James criticised over protocol breach
The ESPN presenter also took at at the Lakers star for breaching the league's Covid-19 protocols last week.
“Here you are, LeBron James. You know what the safety protocols are for the NBA. You know how it looks,” he continued.
“But you do it anyway. Why’d you do it? Because you’re LeBron James.
“You know, because you’re LeBron James, that you can go out there and do stuff that other cats can’t do, and there was no way in hell that the NBA was going to sit you down.
“You have no business doing that. If you’re going to put yourself in that position, what you’ve done essentially is put the league in a position to look the way they’re looking.
“At the end of that day, you didn’t give a damn, you were going to do what you want to do. And to me, come playoff time, with the position the league is in because of the pandemic, I just think that was a very leaderless thing for him to do.”
Hollywood actor Michael B. Jordan and singer Drake both attended the event with James, which took place before the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors.
Although invitees were required to show proof of a negative test or vaccination to get access to the event, James was deemed to be in breach of the NBA's Covid-19 protocols.
"It's a violation of the agreed upon protocols, and, as we have in other comparable instances around the league, it has been addressed with the team," an NBA spokesman told ESPN.
However, James escaped suspension because the breach was not deemed serious enough to risk spreading the virus.
According to NBA regulations, players found to have breached health and safety protocols can receive warnings, fines or suspensions depending on the seriousness of the breach.
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