Celtics

‘I fully understand the concerns’: Here’s what Jayson Tatum and the Celtics said about the COVID-19 vaccine

"It’s tough being told what you can and can’t do with your own body."

Ime Udoka
New Celtics coach Ime Udoka, here pictured earlier this summer, tested positive for COVID-19 but is almost out of isolation. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a bout with COVID-19 last season that forced him to use an inhaler, Celtics star Jayson Tatum decided to get the vaccine.

Tatum, however, says he sees both sides of the increasingly heated argument over whether players should be forced — or at least, strongly encouraged — to get the vaccine.

“I mean, it’s your own decision,” Tatum said. “I fully understand the concerns of those who aren’t vaccinated that don’t want to, and I understand the people like myself that did. It’s your own personal health and your reason. Nobody should be judged one way or the other, whatever their decision is.”

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Several Celtics were asked about vaccinations on Monday, and their answers hit a variety of points on the spectrum: Guarded, skeptical, and even exasperated.

The latter was Jabari Parker, who chuckled in disbelief at a question about whether players who are unvaccinated could be cut from the team.

“I didn’t even know that existed,” Parker said. “That’s very new to me. I don’t know how to answer that question. It takes comfort to get vaccinated, and teams have to do what’s best for them. I don’t know how that really applies to me, but for individual athletes, that’s a personal decision.”

New Celtics guard Josh Richardson posted (and then deleted) his own vaccine skepticism on social media earlier this summer. Asked about it on Monday, Richardson was defensive.

“That subject is pretty personal,” he said. “I’ve kind of talked about what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do with my family and my circle, so I’m not really sure. But I think it’s good that people are still educating themselves on the subject and going forward, I’m not sure.”

Marcus Smart said he decided to get the vaccine largely because he didn’t want to deal with the limitations the NBA put in place for unvaccinated players.

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“It’s tough being told what you can and can’t do with your own body,” Smart said. “For me, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I chose to get vaccinated because, quite frankly, I didn’t feel like dealing with the BS. But that was my decision, and I stand with anybody who makes their own decision to deal with what they feel is best for themselves.

“Unfortunately there’s certain situations where the league will make it for players who aren’t vaccinated, but I chose to get vaccinated because I didn’t want to deal with the BS, and I didn’t feel like causing my team any disparity when it comes to me not being available. I respect everyone’s decision, pro or against.”

Jaylen Brown called the decision to get vaccinated “personal.”

“I have my own thoughts about it but I respect my teammates’ decisions and things like that,” Brown said. “I know everybody has their own opinion about it but I think it’s a personal choice.”

New Celtics coach Ime Udoka recently tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in isolation, but he received his vaccine and thus was asymptomatic save for a headache in the early going.

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Udoka — who was on his final day of isolation Monday — is expected to rejoin the team before training camp begins on Tuesday. The Celtics reportedly have had issues getting all of their players vaccinated, and Udoka said he hopes players aren’t forced to miss games in New York and San Francisco — two locales that have banned unvaccinated individuals from arenas.

“Guys have been informed and educated pretty rigorously on all of the vaccination benefits and it’s a personal choice that guys have to make on their own,” Udoka said. “We’d love to have close to 100 percent if possible and obviously avoid certain situations. But like I said, guys have to make a choice at the end of the day”

Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens told the media the team is doing what it can to bring those numbers up.

“Our hope is that we get as close to 100 percent vaccinated as soon as possible,” Stevens said. “That’s our hope, that’s our desire. Obviously, we’ll continue to work from our end on what we can do, and work from the educational standpoint within the organization and do what we can, and at the same time everybody has to make that decision for themselves.”

Stevens noted that throughout the country, hospitals are overflowing with sick COVID patients and doctors have begun to ration care.

“I think that’s the thing that, you talk about being fully vaccinated and you talk about him getting it and breakthrough cases or unvaccinated cases, the scariest thing for me is just the health of everybody,” Stevens said. “People talk about games and talk about all the things that come with that throughout the course of the season, but we have hospitals overflowing, and people are having to make decisions on who gets oxygen.

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“It’s a sad situation we are in as a world. Like everybody else, I hope that gets improved quickly.”

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