Stephen A. Smith has come strongly in favor of COVID-19 vaccines, and is now calling out the NFL in the process.
During Tuesday’s episode of “First Take,” the ESPN host discussed with Marcus Spears about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the upcoming football season.
Though 93 percent of players have reportedly gotten the shot, players have not been mandated to get the vaccine. Smith vehemently disagrees with that policy.
“The only people that [the vaccine is] not mandated for are the players because they have a union — the Players Association,” Smith said “That’s protecting them from what? Because I’ve got news for you: you’re not protecting them and you’re not protecting us. The reality is if you end up testing positive, you can have an affect on somebody else.”
The ESPN host railed against players who have said they won’t discuss their vaccination status.
“I think it’s shameful when athletes talk about, ‘Oh, it’s a private matter.’ It is not a private matter, because it affects anybody that’s standing right next to you. … It’s ridiculous.”
Smith went on to discuss how the early stages of the pandemic were so lethal because of the “shortages” of hospital beds, staff and personal protective equipment. And now that vaccines are readily available for adults in the U.S., Smith said its imperative for players to get the jab.
“If you get vaccinated, chances are you don’t have to go to the hospital,” he added. “You can go home, you’re gonna feel sick but you can recover because you already have the vaccine.”
Smith’s rant came on the same day NFPA president J.C. Tretter criticized the league for changing its COVID testing policies over the offseason. As of now, vaccinated players will only be tested weekly — among other loosened policies — and those unvaccinated will get daily tests.
And this all comes over comments made by Patriots coach Bill Belichick last week where he seemed to intimate that players who were vaccinated against COVID-19 were just as likely to test positive as unvaccinated players. That notion was refuted by the NFL’s chief medical officer.
“We released our data last week from the first three weeks of August, and that data has consistently shown higher rates of infection in unvaccinated players than in vaccinated players,” Dr. Allen Sills said last week. “That was true at intake when they first came into training camp, and it was true during that first three-week period of August that we released.”
As for the highly contagious Delta variant and the booster shots, Smith said he’ll personally be ready to get another dose.
“The second it’s time to get the booster shot,” Smith said. “I’m getting the booster shot.”