Charles Barkley Faces Criticism After Suggesting Pro Athletes Get Preferential Vaccine Treatment

The COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more readily available for people around the country as people are "getting in line." Frontline workers and people ages 65 and older currently get preferential treatment, but NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said that some other people belong in this group. He called for athletes from the NBA, NFL and NHL to get the vaccine before others.

"We need 300 million shots ... give a thousand to some NBA players, NFL players, hockey players," Barkley said on TNT's Inside the NBA. "As much taxes as these players pay — let me repeat that — as much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment." His comments sparked some pushback from co-stars Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.

Smith responded to Barkley's proclamation and tried to explain that taxes are based on how much you make. The longtime host in Johnson, on the other hand, said that the older population and those at higher risk should get the vaccine. "A thousand shots to NBA players is not going to change the world," Barkley continued.

Barkley expressed the opinion that the athletes deserve preferential treatment based on their taxes, but the NBA Commissioner took a different approach. Adam Silver spoke to ESPN prior to the season and shut down the idea that the league would try to get preferential treatment for the athletes.

"There's no way we'd ever jump the line in any form whatsoever," Silver said. "And, for the most part, because our players are so young and healthy without some sort of comorbidity, they will not be a high priority for vaccinations. There are some other members of the NBA community working on the court who are older and will have a higher priority to get the vaccine.

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"We will very likely be part of some public service campaigns," Silver continued. "We already talked to the CDC and other federal agencies about that, encouraging people to get vaccinated when it is appropriate. But up until then, we will just be watching and waiting."

Similar to Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said that they would not try to seek out preferential treatment for their athletes. Both men said that they would get in line. "There was never any thought about us jumping the line or anything like that," Bettman commented.