Charles Barkley says pro athletes should be among first to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Charles Barkley thinks professional athletes should be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because, according to him, they pay more in taxes.

The basketball Hall of Famer and television commentator generated buzz with his remarks during Thursday night’s Inside the NBA broadcast on TNT alongside his colleagues Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal.

‘NFL players, hockey players, as much taxes as these players pay – let me repeat that – as much taxes as these players pay -they deserve some preferential treatment,’ Barkley said.  

‘That’s just my personal opinion.’

His personal opinion drew brickbats from his co-hosts and from people across social media, who accused him of elitism – and possibly even being drunk. 

The former ‘Round Mound of Rebound’ said it’s not just basketball players who deserve to cut the line: He said professional hockey players from the NHL and football players from the NFL should get priority service, too.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the United States has been considered a failure so far because of several factors, including the disjointed health care system as well as underfunded agencies and a lack of federal guidance.

As of Friday, just 3.4 per cent of the US population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to USA Today. That compares to a recent count in Israel that showed more than 20 per cent of the population vaccinated there.

In the US, more than 63 per cent of the vaccines that have been distributed have yet to be used. 

TNT basketball commentator Charles Barkley caused a stir late on Thursday night when he said on a television broadcast that professional athletes in the NBA, NHL, and NFL should be given priority in getting the COVID-19 vaccine because they pay more in taxes

So far, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been considered a dismal failure nationwide. People wait in line at the Disneyland vaccination site in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday

So far, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been considered a dismal failure nationwide. People wait in line at the Disneyland vaccination site in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday

When Barkley suggested pro athletes jump the line, his television co-hosts questioned his logic. 

‘For [matters of] life and death?’ co-host Smith asked Barkley.   

‘Yes,’ Barkley replied.

Smith and Johnson strongly disagreed.

‘You gotta take care of the elderly and the at-risk,’ Johnson said.

‘I totally agree – we need to take care of the first responders and the old people,’ Barkley said. ‘But I’m saying, giving a thousand shots to NBA players is not going to change the world.’

Barkley’s comments were not well-received on Twitter, where on social media people accused him of being out of touch with everyday Americans.

‘Is Charles Barkley drunk?’ Twitter user Phillip Lewis wondered.

‘He’s been terrible, but this was especially so,’ New York Times columnist Nikole Hannah Jones wrote.

Richard Waithe mocked Barkley by posting a meme showing Mister Rogers putting on a clown mask.

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘Society has progressed beyond the need to have charles barkley offer his opinion on anything.’

‘Charles Barkley showing his elitism on TNT,’ another Twitter user commented.

Twitter user Deborah Jones wrote: ‘I am not sure what Charles Barkley was smoking implying that because sports players pay more in taxes that they should be allow to get the vaccine.

Barkley’s comments were not well-received on Twitter, where social media users accused him of being out of touch with everyday Americans

Barkley’s comments were not well-received on Twitter, where social media users accused him of being out of touch with everyday Americans

‘No, they need to wait just like everybody else. They are not more important than essential workers or me.’

According to the latest data from Statista, the average player salary in the NBA from the 2019-2020 season was $8.32million.

NFL player salaries come in at an average of $3.26million. Hockey players in the NHL earn an average of $2.69million.

In comparison, the median annual income for an entire typical household in the US in 2019 was just over $68,000, according to the Census Bureau.

While professional athletes earn much more than the average American, Barkley likely is correct in stating that multimillionaire sports figures pay a hefty sum in taxes.

Some jurisdictions in the United States even impose a so-called ‘jock tax’ on athletes who earn income in more than one state.

The thinking behind that is athletes get paid for performing not just in the home state where they live but in other states where they travel for road games.

So if an NBA player for the Miami Heat travels with the team to play the Lakers in Los Angeles for an away game, the money earned in that game will be less than that of a home game in South Florida.

Less than 4 percent of New York's population have so far been vaccinated, according to data from Bloomberg

Less than 4 percent of New York’s population have so far been vaccinated, according to data from Bloomberg

That’s because Florida has no income tax, while California does.

So Miami Heat players would be on the hook for a tax bill based on the rates charged under California law since they earned income for that particular game in Los Angeles.

In addition to the ‘jock tax,’ professional athletes are also subject to state and federal income tax in their home jurisdiction, just like any other American taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been widely criticized as a failure nationwide.

The rapid expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations to senior citizens across the US has led to bottlenecks, system crashes and hard feelings in many states because of overwhelming demand for the shots.

Mississippi’s Health Department stopped taking new appointments the same day it began accepting them because of a ‘monumental surge’ in requests.

People had to wait hours to book vaccinations through a state website or a toll-free number Tuesday and Wednesday, and many were booted off the site because of technical problems and had to start over.

In California, counties begged for more coronavirus vaccine to reach millions of their senior citizens.

Hospitals in South Carolina ran out of appointment slots within hours. Phone lines were jammed in Georgia.

‘It’s chaos,’ said New York City resident Joan Jeffri, 76, who had to deal with broken hospital web links and unanswered phone calls before her daughter helped her secure an appointment.

‘If they want to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population, good luck, if this is the system. We’ll be here in five years.’

Up until the past few days, health care workers and nursing home patients had been given priority in most places around the US.

But amid frustration over the slow rollout, states have thrown open the line to many of the nation’s 54 million senior citizens with the blessing of President Donald Trump’s administration, though the minimum age varies from place to place, at 65, 70 or higher.

On Thursday, New Jersey expanded vaccinations to people between 16 and 65 with certain medical conditions – including up to 2 million smokers, who are more prone to health complications.

The US, meanwhile, recorded 3,848 deaths on Wednesday, down from an all-time high of 4,327 the day before, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has topped 385,000.

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9trillion coronavirus economic stimulus plan Thursday that includes speeding up vaccinations.

Called the ‘American Rescue Plan,’ the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration.

More than 11.1 million Americans, or over 3 per cent of the US population, have gotten their first shot of the vaccine, a gain of about 800,000 from the day before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The goal of inoculating anywhere between 70 per cent and 85 per cent of the population to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak is still many months away.

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