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August 02, 2021

Charles Barkley says pro athletes who refuse COVID-19 vaccine are 'selfish'

The Basketball Hall of Famer also called for immunization requirements across all sports leagues

Charles Barkley has no time for you if you're unwilling to get vaccinated at this point of the COVID-19 pandemic — especially if you're a professional athlete.

During an appearance on "Back on the Record with Bob Costas" that premiered Friday night on HBO, the Basketball Hall of Famer said that players who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine are being "selfish."

"I think it's really selfish if you play sports because, number one, a lot of people have died, which sucks," Barkley told Costas. "But more people, they've lost their jobs, they've lost their houses and their dreams are shattered. All athletes have been paid. I just think it's so selfish. Think about this. We're the only job in the entire world where we've gotten paid and everyone else has lost their jobs or gotten laid off. And for players not to take the vaccination, I just think it's selfish because, number one, you don't want to get anybody sick. That's the most important thing. But I just think it's selfish for you, who's in a great situation, not to be vaccinated."

The Sixers legend also called on all professional sports leagues to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates for players.

"Every job you go to has rules," Barkley told Costas. "I think there should be mandates to get vaccinated. And if you don't wanna live by the rules at your job, you have the right to get fired. You do have rights. But there's certain things I can't do at my job. There's certain things you can't do at your job. I think in all sports it should be mandated that you have to get vaccinated. And if people don't like it, they have the right to walk away."

Barkley's interview with Costas can be streamed on HBO Max.

This is not the first time that the NBA on TNT analyst has weighed in with his opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine. This past April, Barkley joined former President Barack Obama and fellow Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in a television PSA urging more Black Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Barkley's comments come as the debate heats up over whether professional sports leagues should require all of its athletes to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The ability for a league to mandate vaccinations would not be easy given the powerful labor unions that represent the players.

As a result, professional sports leagues have varied in terms of their approach to getting players and coaches vaccinated.

NFL teams that suffer COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players this upcoming season could be forced to forfeit games, face financial penalties and receive additional discipline from the league if health and safety protocols were violated. Worst of all, a canceled game that cannot be rescheduled means no game checks that week for players.

Over 90% of the Eagles' roster has at least started the COVID-19 vaccination process, general manager Howie Roseman said last week as training camp opened for the 2021 season. All NFL coaches and staff are required to be vaccinated, unless they have a religious or medical exemption. 

MLB has not mandated that players, coaches and staff get vaccinated. The league, however, allows clubs to enjoy relaxed COVID-19 health and safety protocols once 85% of a team's players, coaches and clubhouse staff is fully vaccinated.

But the Phillies are nowhere close to the 85% threshold, as nearly half the team's active roster reportedly remains unvaccinated.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said earlier this year that employers could mandate workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to the office. 

But any COVID-19 vaccine mandate must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act, the agency said, citing that the ADA requires businesses to keep some health information confidential.

The EEOC also said that employers are permitted to offer incentives for their employees to get vaccinated, as long as they aren't coercive. 

Local establishments such as the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have required all staff to be fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the highly-contagious Delta variant continues to spread across the country, leading to rising COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths among those who are not vaccinated. The Delta variant has become the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States.

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