Stephen A. Smith Rips Pro Athletes Who Say COVID Vaccine Is a ‘Private Matter’

“It is not a private matter because it affects anybody that’s standing right next to you. You’re not living a private life, that’s ridiculous.”

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Like Charles Barkley, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith has had it with pro athletes who are either anti-vax or cagey about whether they’ve been inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Smith, noted for his blunt commentary, addressed an unequivocal statement to athletes skeptical about vaccines on Tuesday’s episode of ESPN‘s First Take

Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM /

Retired NFL pro Marcus Spears and co-host Molly Qerim Rose were discussing solid reasons teams might insist players are fully vaxxed and Smith chimed in:

If you’re vaccinated, it’s cut in half, the time you have to sit out. That’s the bottom line, that’s the reality of the rules in the NFL. If you’re not, you’re 10 days, it’s gonna be 10 days, regardless.

And 10 days is gonna cost you a game — unless you’re potentially in a bye week — or two.

Smith admitted that though the issue was between the NFL and its Players Association, he felt commissioner Roger Goodell should put his foot down and not permit players refusing the vaccine to take the field. 

Roger Goodell

Here he was in total agreement with Sir Charles:

The reality is that if you end up testing positive, you can have an effect on somebody else. We all understand, if you’re vaccinated, you can still catch COVID. But people forget the crisis about COVID-19, believe it or not, wasn’t just being unvaccinated, wasn’t just the virus, wasn’t just that some people were dying. The problem was you didn’t have medical facilities available, you didn’t have personal protective equipment, you didn’t have all of those things.

There was a shortage — there’s a shortage of hospital space, there’s a shortage of beds, there’s a shortage of doctors. That’s why this was so pivotal — because you didn’t have the people to treat you. That’s what made it so catastrophic as well. So if you’re vaccinated, chances are you don’t have to go to the hospital. You can go home, you’re gonna feel sick, but you can recover because you already have the vaccine.

Unfortunately, Smith’s statements are more salient than ever. Yahoo reported Tuesday that daily coronavirus infections are now “four times higher than they were following Labor Day weekend of last year with the number of daily deaths twice as high as they were this time in 2020.”

New infections are causing a terrible ripple effect as well, according to the report, as “intensive care units across several states are inching closer to full capacity, which could force doctors to make life-and-death decisions.”

With that new data in mind, Stephen A. Smith’s statements hit harder. “I think it’s shameful when athletes talk about, ‘Oh, it’s a private matter,'” he said. 

“It is not a private matter,” Smith continued, “because it affects anybody that’s standing right next to you. You’re not living a private life, that’s ridiculous. 

“If I hear one more person, Molly, if I hear one more person, Marcus, talk to me about, ‘What’s in the vaccine?’ I might slap ’em with my phone.”

Smith went on to note how hypocritical it is to accept all the other types of vaccinations that are part of life from childhood on, like the yearly flu shot, and then decide that only coronavirus vaccinations are a problem. 

It’s unlikely he’ll get much in the way of blowback for this particular rant, but if he does, at least Stephen A. Smith knows that Charles Barkley has his back