Kristian Winfield: Ted Cruz, who is vaccinated, shamelessly backs unvaccinated NBA players

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If unvaccinated NBA players needed any inspiration to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, they should look to Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz, who has endorsed their decision to hold out.

Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins headline the list of the 10% of NBA players who have yet to get vaccinated for reasons they have struggled (or refused) to articulate. Cruz, who is himself vaccinated, supported their decision in a tweet on Wednesday:

“I stand with Kyrie Irving. I stand with Andrew Wiggins. I stand with Bradley Beal. I stand with Jonathan Isaac,” the senator wrote with the hashtag #YourBodyYourChoice.

Cruz is an ardent opponent of abortion rights; #YourBodyYourChoice only works when it suits his narrative. He has been relatively quiet about Texas’ abortion bill, which ultimately passed and stripped women in his state of the right to undergo an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

This should be a reality check, both for the NBA and its unvaxxed population. The NBA’s 90% vaccination rate falls short of the NFL’s 93.5% rate, and the NBA is supposed to be the more progressive league. Could have fooled me.

Just like a small pocket of NBA players have fooled themselves into thinking holding out of a potentially life-saving vaccine makes them strong or smart. It actually accomplishes quite the opposite.

Dallas Mavericks reserve guard Trey Burke, for example, said he hasn’t gotten vaccinated because he needs to do more research, as if the vaccine hasn’t been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than a month. NBA fans, however, can live without Burke on the floor for home games.

The cream of the crop of players presents a far more delicate situation.

Irving, for example, is one of the most electrifying players in all of basketball. If he does not find a way to come into compliance with New York City’s vaccination requirement, he will be forced to miss all the home games at Barclays Center, where fans are paying good money for seats — not to mention Joe Tsai is paying good money for his performance. (Tsai, at least, will get his money back.)

Those requirements vary from city to city: Beal would not be required to get vaccinated because there is no such mandate in Washington.

Maybe an Irving-for-Ben Simmons swap makes more sense today than it did a week ago. Even if Simmons, who is believed to be vaccinated, doesn’t want to shoot 3s or take open layups, at least he would be available to play.

The same can’t be said for a small but loud contingent of NBA players, who’ve just received public backing from a source they never dreamed. Those dreams can quickly become nightmares, especially if they’re leaving millions of dollars on the table, over a vaccine that could very well save not only their lives, but the lives of their teammates and loved ones.

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