Power Players

NBA legend Charles Barkley: ‘The only people who are not vaccinated are just a--holes'

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US basketball player Charles Barkley arrives for the 2019 NBA Awards at Barker Hangar on June 24, 2019 in Santa Monica, California.
Lisa O'Connor | AFP | Getty Images

 "Yes, I'm vaccinated," says NBA legend Charles Barkley. "Everybody should be vaccinated. Period."

"The only people who are not vaccinated are just a--holes," he says.

The 58-year-old NBA Hall-of-Famer says he personally thinks sports leagues should force players to get vaccinated.

"Can you imagine if one of these guys that are not vaccinated, if they get one of these players' kids, wives, girlfriends, moms and dads sick and they die over some unnecessary conspiracy bulls---," Barkley says. "I think that would be tragic."

Barkley says playing in a professional sports league is just like having a corporate job.

"There's s--- you can't do at work and there's s--- that have to do at work," he says. "So every workplace has rules and I think one of the rules [should be] that guys have to be vaccinated."

Up to 80% of NFL players, 90% of NBA players and 85% of MLB players have reportedly had at least one shot. But there have been players and coaches who have publicly refused to be vaccinated.

According to ESPN, Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison and New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich are both out next season due to decisions related to the Covid-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines.

NFL's guidelines required vaccination for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. However, NFL players are not required to be vaccinated. But players who are not vaccinated will face strict protocols and consequences like fines and game forfeits if they choose to decline the vaccine, ESPN reports. The NFL said it won't extend the 2021 season due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

The NBA and MLB are also not requiring players to get vaccinated.

Buffalo Bill's Cole Beasley and Arizona Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins are among the NFL players who have been vocal about not wanting to get vaccinated.

"I'll get vaccinated and be an advocate for it if Pfizer puts a percentage of its earnings from the vaccine in my wife's name," Beasley tweeted on July 20.

Billionaire Mark Cuban later responded to Beasley's tweet, offering to buy his wife a share of Pfizer stock, if he got vaccinated. (A share of Pfizer was worth around $41 at the time.)

Zachary Binney, a sports epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Los Angeles Times that athletes aren't that different from the rest of the U.S. population when it comes to vaccine beliefs.

"A lot of them are vaccinated. A lot of them are willing to become vaccinated. Some of them have concerns. And some of them just are not going to do it — and they are never going to do it," Binney said.

As of Tuesday, 49% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated.

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