Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not too amused by a COVID-19 meme posted by Lakers superstar LeBron James.
The photo, which James posted on Christmas Eve, is the Spider-Man pointing meme that features three cartoon superheroes labeled “cold,” “flu” and “covid” pointing at one another, including a caption that reads “Help me out folks,” along with a shrugging emoji.
James, who has over 100 million followers on Instagram, has received over two million likes on the post and a bevy of comments from verified accounts including other NBA players, musicians and actors.
On Monday, Dec. 27, Abdul-Jabbar took to Substack to address James’ post, calling it “a blow to his worthy legacy.” The 74-year-old continued, adding that “the meme’s implication is that LeBron doesn’t understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that’s been presented in the press.”
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Abdul-Jabbar prefaced his criticisms by saluting James for his play on the court and work off the court to be a leader in the African-American community. However, Abdul-Jabbar says that James’ post and early-season comments regarding the COVID-19 vaccine could have a negative impact on the Black community.
In response to James’ September statement that he would decline to take a public stance on the COVID-19 vaccine because it is not “something political or racism or police brutality,” Abdul-Jabbar countered with the statistics that in 2021, “the communities of People of Color are still suffering at a much higher rate than white communities.”
“In November 2021, the CDC stated, ‘It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19,’” Abdul-Jabbar penned.
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While James has not clarified whether or not the meme was intended to compare the three illnesses, Abdul-Jabbar also addressed the meme itself, adding that “no one thinks colds and the flu aren’t serious. In the 2019-2020 flu season, 400,000 people were hospitalized and 22,000 people died. In 2020, 385,428 people died of COVID-19, while so far in 2021, 423,558 have died in the U.S., for a total of 808,986 deaths. Experts agree that COVID-19 is at least 10 times more lethal than the flu. As for the common cold, death is extremely rare.”
Through his usage of facts and statistics, Abdul-Jabbar implores James to use his platform and influence to help the Black community overcome a “vaccine hesitancy that your meme promotes.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s full letter to James can be found here.