Last Updated on February 14, 2022
Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal voiced his displeasure with COVID vaccine mandates on his podcast this past Thursday. “You shouldn’t be forced to take something you don’t want to,” Shaq told co-hosts Nischelle Turner and Anthony Adams.
O’Neal and Turner debated whether it was fair for a private company to fire workers who opt not to be injected with a COVD-19 vaccine. Turner claimed that unvaccinated workers are “putting other people at risk” and argued that companies should have the right to enforce vaccine mandates. O’Neal argued that workers should not be forced to take something that “goes against their morals” in order to keep their jobs. “I’m with you on the rules because I’m a rules guy,” O’Neal said. “But I do feel sympathetic towards people who have to make that kind of decision.”
Shaq’s recent statements could represent a change of opinion for him on vaccine mandates. O’Neal initially criticized Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was suspended from team activities last fall after opting not to get vaccinated. “Whoever owns the Brooklyn Nets, get him outta here” O’Neal said in reference to Irving at the time.
Kyrie Irving was eventually cleared almost halfway through the season, but only for road contests. The Nets only brought back Irving after COVID outbreaks decimated the league in December. Despite a reported vaccination rate of 95%, over 100 players entered league COVID-19 protocols during the month, accounting for about a quarter of the league’s roster. This led to multiple game cancellations and eventually forced the league to amend their COVID-19 protocols.