After all the chatter about it in recent weeks, the moment appears to be imminent. And the symbolism, if not the substance, of a decision handed down by the marquis franchise of the uber-woke National Basketball Association (NBA) is sure to stoke fresh division in a nation already deeply divided by issues of science-turned-politics.
The long-beleaguered New York Knicks have announced that they plan to sell tickets only to vaccinated individuals, should the team advance to the next round of the NBA playoffs. The Knicks claim they are acting upon “enthusiastic response to vaccination requirements.” David Hopkinson, head of the team’s business operations, said the effective prohibition of the unvaccinated is based on the notion of “what’s possible if everyone gets vaccinated – we’ll all be able to get back to doing what we love.”
So the world has now advanced from the realm of theoretical vaccine passports to the real deal. It should come as no surprise – given the NBA’s status as a poster child of “social justice” – that a franchise would lead the way on what should be a purely scientific issue that has evolved into pure politics. Using COVID-19 as a cudgel to beat President Trump about the head put to rest any faint hope that the deaths of hundreds of thousands from an uncontrollable virus could be divorced from shameless political opportunism.
When it comes to vaccines, the nation is divided right down the middle. The latest figures from the CDC show 50% of the country as fully vaccinated, meaning half the country remains non-responsive to the pleadings of public officials from the president on down.
But what, one might say, is wrong with protecting the near-majority of vaccinated people from those who refuse to answer the call to get jabbed? Can’t these refusers see that it’s for the good of themselves – and all around them? Certainly they can be made to see the light, the argument goes.
It is clear from not just the content but the tone of their statements these days that the left views the unvaccinated as a threat almost akin to gun owners. They must be either misguided, stupid, or deranged – in other words, Trump supporters. Those who refuse to adopt a spirit of collectivist compliance are to be condemned as selfish and, of course, “anti-science.”
Lest everyone be judged for deeply personal decisions, such as allowing powerful anti-bodies to be injected into otherwise healthy bodies, perhaps it’s best not to be so quick to judge those exercising their freedom to refuse inoculation. The choice may be clear for some, but not so much for others.
How about those with underlying health conditions who are understandably fearful of how the documented track record of aftershocks from the vaccines – fatigue, fever, and a range of other symptoms – might affect them? How about those who have had adverse reactions to the flu vaccine in the past – or those who have seen loved ones struggle after being jabbed?
There are many people who have a fear of all shots, just as others may have, for example, an elevated fear of spiders. Are we to isolate and discriminate against them, and the tens of millions who have either not yet been vaccinated or have decided against it? Are they to be shunned and refused entrance to public events?
The Knicks need only look across their own town to see a more reasonable model for allaying the fears of the vaccinated without discriminating against the unvaccinated. MLB’s Mets and Yankees have both set aside sections of their stadium seating exclusively for those who’ve been jabbed. But they have pointedly refused to deny admission to those who have not, and they have at times offered free vaccinations to all fans attending the game. Admittedly, the threat level for outdoor events like baseball is lower than for indoor events such as basketball, but, in the end, the issue is not vaccinations. It is freedom.
Perhaps the NBA is being used as a test run or beta test for official government policy. Will leftists continue their rank politicization of the pandemic by creating federal or state policy about vaccine status as the pretext for further government control (never let a crisis go to waste)? Are they attempting to create a two-tier society, on top of the race-based balkanization of the nation they have been promoting over these last years?
No matter the justification, this seems to be the thin edge of the wedge of a flagrantly discriminatory policy. And much like standing up for those who may be different but retain identical constitutional rights, Americans will likely look upon such provocative incursions into individual liberty with skepticism at best, fear at worst.
*Since the publication of this article, the New York Knicks have been eliminated from the NBA playoffs.
Read more from Tim Donner.