John Stockton attended Gonzaga a long time ago, from 1981-84. So the hope is that the academic culture at the Spokane school has picked up since then, right along with the basketball program.
If it hasn’t, the value of that highly regarded Jesuit-school diploma has taken a dive more dramatic than when Stockton would attempt to draw a charging foul on Gary Payton.
Giving professors the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Stockton was on a Zags road trip and missed the health-sciences class discussion on how the Aztec empire was wiped out by smallpox brought by the European colonialists. And how polio at one time was killing five percent of the children who contracted it, and 30 percent of adults. And how tetanus has a 20 percent fatality rate, and survivors take months to recover.
For more than 100 years, these global virus varmints have been curbed and doused by scientists and epidemiologists whose professional heirs now are trying to distribute free, effective vaccines to fight the latest scourge, covid-19.
This week, Stockton, a basketball Hall of Famer legendary as one of the game’s dirtiest players, metaphorically kneed the groins of all the health-care providers trying trying to save lives while fighting through his screen of ignorance.
After two years of failed negotiations with Spokane’s biggest celebrity, university officials suspended his Zags season tickets for his continuing failure to wear a mask at the games he attends, per school requirements.
“They were asking me to wear a mask to the games, and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit,” Stockton told Spokesman-Review sports reporter Theo Lawson. “And therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups — those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up — they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”
In a lengthy interview, Stockton explained his anti-vaccination views, which had been known publicly since he appeared in a “documentary” film in June riddled with misinformation. But even though he claimed to have done “thousands of hours” of research, his explanation began with the misplaced trope of restricting rights in America.
“I never thought in my life I could lose my tickets because I wouldn’t wear a mask to a game,” he said. “I never thought I’d see mandated drugs. I never thought I would see contact tracing to where neighbors and friends and people in the same arena with the same team they love ratting on one another. ‘Hey, that person’s not wearing a mask. ‘Hey, what’s their vaccine status?’ I never thought you’d have to report your medical records and I never thought you’d have to have some sort of papers to get on an airplane or go to a store or a restaurant.
“I never thought a government could shut down businesses, local businesses, put them out of business and lose their livelihoods because of one person making a decision. There’s a lot of things I thought would never happen that are happening right now.”
A lot of us never thought we’d experience a pandemic, either. And almost two years in, we have vaccines that greatly cuts the odds, consequences and loss of life.
Progress would be even greater if people such as Stockton understood the overwhelming evidence accepted by professionals risking their own lives to help save him and his loved ones.
Instead, in the interview he cheered on fellow anti-vaxxers Aaron Rodgers and ex-Washington State coach Nick Rolovich, while expressing, as a devout Catholic, his “disappointment” with Pope Francis for encouraging vaccinations among his followers.
Even if a reader kinda-sorta agreed with the “infringement” argument, Stockton completely jumped the shark with outrageous claims of pro athletes dead from the vaccine.
“And I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now – it’s over 100 professional athletes dead, professional athletes, the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court,” he said. “There’s 20,000 deaths from the vaccine that the CDC acknowledges from their VAERS system, which they acknowledge accounts for only 1% of actual.
“So the actual numbers more than likely are much larger than that, but that’s what they’re actually willing to concede. They shut down previous vaccine systems for 25 deaths and we’re well over 20,000 again that they concede. Over a million injuries.”
Needless to say, there is no evidence for such outlandish claims. Or as former Sonics and University of Washington star Detlef Schrempf put it:
Another hoops contemporary of Stockton’s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader, chimed in on CNN Monday, saying Stockton’s remarks “made the public look upon athletes as basically dumb jocks for trying to explain away something that is obviously a pandemic.
“I think John’s reaction to the vaccine is extreme and not based on reality or facts. If John could just check the facts out, he would understand that this vaccine is saving lives.”
Stockton is hardly alone among active and retired athletes who publicly shun the jab. We also know that only 63 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. We 63 percenters wish we could step back as Stockton and his fans follow the Aztecs, but I heard somewhere we were one nation, under God, indivisible. So we keep trying to ask for the respect of a mask.
As far as those pearl-clutching Gonzaga fans fearful of the fracture between the icon and the stunningly successful basketball program, look at it like Homer Simpson breaking up with Jennifer Lawrence.
She’ll be fine.