Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks importance of vaccines among NBA players

Unvaccinated players who miss games due to mandates won't be paid.

The NBA season is set to tip off in a matter of weeks with new vaccine rules meant to help bring back some semblance of normalcy following two disrupted seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBA legend and award-winning columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal advocate for getting the COVID-19 vaccine and called out a few current NBA players who have refused to get their shots, including Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins, whose comments on refusing the vaccine he called "very irresponsible."

Abdul-Jabbar told ABC News Wednesday that he thinks unvaccinated players are misinformed, and that their stance is negatively impacting the Black community.

"It sounded to me like they have not made any attempt to inform themselves on what's going on. A whole lot of people are dying, especially Black Americans. So this issue, it's of key importance to the Black community. It's like an extension of Black Lives Matter," said Abdul-Jabbar. "Most of the people who are losing their jobs and being negatively affected in other ways economically are Black Americans."

"We are able to fight this war against COVID-9 using masks and vaccination. That's how we fight it. So they have to get wise to that," he added.

Abdul-Jabbar wrote a column on his Substack page this week, in which he said NBA players have a duty to use their platform to save lives, especially within the Black community, since it makes up a large part of the league's fan population.

"[Vaccines are] not something that is coming out of some exotic place," said Abdul-Jabbar, who cited other vaccines like those for measles and mumps. "This is part of American life. When we have a problem as severe [as having] thousands of people dying every day."

The NBA will officially begin its season on Oct. 19, and teams are expected to play a regular 82-game schedule for the first time in two years.

While the NBA does not have a vaccine mandate, on Wednesday the league announced that unvaccinated players will not be paid if they have to miss a game due to local vaccine mandates.

"Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses," Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Abdul-Jabbar said Wednesday's ruling is not enough and that the league should do more to work with the National Basketball Player's Association to enforce a vaccine mandate before the season begins.

"It's a health issue, absolutely and most simply," he said. "But, beyond that, it's [an issue] if you care for your family or the people that you work with, [or] have to spend a lot of time with, you will get vaccinated."