NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has harshly criticised LeBron James over a meme he posted comparing catching the coronavirus to the common cold.
Despite it being established early on once the Covid-19 pandemic took told across that globe that the symptoms and illness caused by the virus could be substantially worse than those of the common cold, scepticism about the seriousness of the virus persists.
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Impatience with restrictions meant to help limit the spread of the virus has contributed to such attitudes, with James earlier suggesting there was something 'fishy' going on when he was briefly pulled into the NBA's health and safety protocols earlier this season.
In September last year, James said he would not advocate for anyone to get the coronavirus vaccine, declaring he only spoke for 'me and my family' on the matter.
However, since posting the meme showing three Spidermans pointing at one another labelled 'Cold', 'Flu' and 'Covid', accompanied by the caption 'Help me out here', criticism of his stance has flowed.
None of that criticism was as direct as the short Substack essay posted by the Lakers great Abdul-Jabbar, in which the NBA's all-time leading scorer argued James ought to take the same care when discussing Covid-19 as he had for other issues like his passionate advocacy against police brutality committed against black people.
Abdul-Jabbar called James's perspective 'uninformed' and suggested his careless remarks were damaging his otherwise strong legacy both on and off the court.
“LeBron has encouraged vaccine hesitancy which puts lives and livelihoods at risk," Kareem wrote.
“With his message: ‘Help me out folks’ was a blow to his worthy legacy. The meme’s implication is that LeBron doesn’t understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that’s been presented in the press.
“While LeBron is a necessary and dynamic voice critical of police brutality against the Black community, he needs to be the same necessary and dynamic advocate with vaccines, which could save thousands of Black lives right now.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slams LeBron James over Covid-19 scepticism
Abdul-Jabbar went out of his way to demonstrate to James the massive disparity of Covid-related deaths among the black community compared to other ethnicities in the United States.
Statistically, due to substantially lower rates of vaccination among black people compared to the rest of the American population, Abdul-Jabbar argued the community's most prominent voices needed to to more to prevent more deaths.
"With 106 million Instagram followers, making such a post is automatically politically impactful because he questions the validity of the efforts to get the country vaccinated," Abdul-Jabbar wrote.
"As is evident by some of the comments that cheer LeBron’s post, he’s given support to those not getting vaccinated, which makes the situation for all of worse by postponing our health and economic recovery.
"The CDC reports that those who are unvaccinated are 9 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and 14 times more likely to die from COVID than those vaccinated.
"The number rises to 20 time more likely when compared to someone who’s gotten a booster shot. By posting the uninformed meme, LeBron has encouraged vaccine hesitancy which puts lives and livelihoods at risk.
"As of December 2020, about 97.9 out of every 100,000 African Americans had died from COVID-19, a third higher than that for Latinos (64.7 per 100,000), and more than double that for whites (46.6 per 100,000) and Asians (40.4 per 100,000)."
James has yet to respond to Abdul-Jabbar's criticism.
The meme in question remains up on James' Instagram page, which boasts more than 100 million followers.
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