Another Scary Side-Effect of COVID: Dumb Jock Syndrome

Some comments about COVID vaccines are setting back public trust in athletes

Athletes have struggled for decades to eliminate the stereotype of the meatslab dumb jock who bullies nerds into doing his homework, harasses women with sleazy leers, and swaggers around with nothing on his mind put sports cars, big bucks, and adulating fans. That degrading and dehumanizing image still exists in many teen movies and TV shows as smirking jocks stalk school hallways looking for dweebs to shove into lockers. Although he first appeared in 1949, Archie comics’ Moose Mason, who often began sentences with “d-uh,” is still the patron saint of dumb jock characters.

High school may have created the belief in that dumb jock stereotype for Americans, but the antics of hard-partying athletes memorialized in books, movies, and TV shows like North Dallas Forty, Semi-Tough, Karate Kid, Ballers, and more have perpetuated the image. Of course, there have been many athletes whose dedication to community and social justice have lifted the image of the athlete to greater heights: Jesse Owens, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, and many more. I wish I could list them all because their dedication and sacrifices haven’t just made a huge difference in how the world sees athletes, but they’ve improved the lives of millions. Because of athletes like them, all athletes have higher esteem—and monetary worth—in the public eye.

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But then there are those athletes who wish to pay homage to the dumb jock stereotype through their stances on COVID-19 vaccinations. Their excuses for not getting vaccinated during one of the most deadly pandemics in history are as childish as they are uninformed. I refer to this as “voluntarily uninformed” because they have the technology to gather all the information through their smart phone, the most advanced educational tool in the history of humankind. Listening to them flounder when asked why they aren’t vaccinated is cringy embarrassing, like when a teacher calls on the kid in class they know hasn’t read the assignment but the kid tries to bluff it out anyway.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal recently opined: “I would like an explanation … [as to why] people with vaccines, why are they still getting COVID? ... Like, it's funny that, ‘Oh, it reduces your chances of going to the hospital.’ It doesn't eliminate anybody from getting COVID, right?” Next time you have a serious infection, don’t take the anti-biotics the doctor prescribes because they don’t work 100 percent of the time. And when you’re playing basketball, don’t shoot the ball unless you score 100 percent of the time. Also, that question has been answered a thousand times by experts.

Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins promised that he would “just keep fighting for what I believe…what’s right to one person isn’t right to the other.” Trying to make this a matter of principle would be fine, if there was a rational principle involved. It’s not being forced to be vaccinated, since no one is forcing you. If you are so righteously committed to the principle, then don’t play professional basketball. Stand firm on that principle. Unless money trumps principle. By the way, the whole “what’s right to one person isn’t right to the other” idea sounds great, unless you realize society only exists because we consider the greater good to be more important than individual choices. Try driving on the left side of the road, don’t pay taxes, don’t get your children a polio vaccine. The problem with that vague philosophy is that the rest of us pay for those sloppy thinkers because they are the ones clogging our hospitals, crushing our economy, and keeping us from our loved ones.

The unvaccinated account for 97.3% of all COVID-19 cases. That says it all. And those who have COVID-19 but show no symptoms, may be spreading it to others without ever knowing it. So, what’s right to one person isn’t right to the other doesn’t work when you’re killing the other person.

The states with the lowest vaccination rates have the highest hospitalization and death rates. Texas and Florida, whose governors have chosen to literally sacrifice the lives of their citizens in order to promote their 2024 campaigns for president as Trumpian scofflaws, continue to resist mask and vaccine mandates while their hospitals and cemeteries fill up. It is notable that both states have high Black populations. They are getting sick at a higher rate, being hospitalized at a higher rate, and dying at a higher rate than whites in part because of vaccine hesitancy. Famous Black athletes speaking up for vaccines could end that hesitancy and save lives. While I never want athletes to think they are obligated to become activists—that’s a matter of conscience—Black athletes who equivocate about getting vaccinated are directly harming Black communities.

Last summer up to 26 million people marched in support of Black Lives Matter. The NBA painted it on their courts. People wore t-shirts. The push to get Black people vaccinated is just an extension of Black Lives Matter.

Athletes and other celebrities with a public platform need to realize we are at war against this disease that has killed more Americans than World War I and World War II combined and that our main weapons are vaccines and masks. Those who refuse to take up those weapons in defense of family, friends, community, and country are actually helping the enemy to kill us. Isn’t there a word for that?

I want to hear from you: sound off in the comment section below. What do you think of the current COVID-19 vaccination rate within the NBA?