Thursday, February 04, 2021

Wait Your Turn

In a New York Times op-ed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar notes that adults under 35 and African-Americans have been farm more reluctant than other Americans to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

The fourth (arguably, third) greatest center ever in the National Basketball Association explains that blacks have received inferior health care because of systemic racism, the Tuskegee study of black men with syphilis, the Trump Administration's awful response to Covid-19, and the recent, vigorous effort of the GOP to suppress the black vote. He believes

N.B.A. players, 81.1 percent of whom are Black, appeal to the under-35 and African-American demographics. LeBron James, whom Forbes called “America’s most popular athlete,” has 72.6 million Instagram followers, and Steph Curry has 30.4 million (compared with Tom Brady’s 8.2 million), so when they and other influential N.B.A. athletes publicly get their shots, they will contribute to convincing Black and under-35 skeptics that the vaccines are safe and necessary. Other role models might be necessary to reach other populations that are reluctant to get vaccinated, like those in rural areas of the country.

Abdul-Jabbar is well-meaning and well-intentioned, unlike Charles Barkley (from whose view Kareem distinguishes himself), who thinks NBA players should be ushered to the front of the line because they pay higher income taxes. That reasoning is reprehensible while Abdul-Jabbar's is merely misguided.

Some people would believe NBA players were receiving priority in vaccination because of race, inasmuch as most of the stars are African-American.  Strictly speaking, they wouldn't be getting preferential treatment simply because they are black but because they are celebrities and the objective would be to induce (especially young) blacks to get the vaccine. The subtlety may be lost on many, however.

More Americans would object because it is a dramatic example of the wealthy convinced they are entitled. It is the privilege of the elite, the (usually) .1% benefitting at the expense of everyone else. Further, there is understandable, albeit unfortunate, envy of individuals who get paid for playing a game, which most of us (men traditionally, increasingly men and women) have done for nothing at some period in our lives.

Most of all, this would be advantaging the wealthy over the non-wealthy. In a nation reeling from income inequality (remember that?), this is not a good look and not good policy.



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