Although the NBA admitted that L.A. Lakers superstar LeBron James broke league COVID-19 protocols recently, officials chose not to suspend the perennial All-Star. On Saturday, NBA legend Charles Barkley sounded off on the league’s decision.
Previously, players that have violated COVID-19 protocols have faced 10 to 14-day quarantines. Yet that isn’t the case after James attended a promotional event for Lobos 1707 tequila. The 4-time champion is an investor in the tequila brand and joined other celebrities at the event, including rapper Drake and actor Michael B. Jordan.
Photos from the event show the celebrities and others mingling and in close contact with one another. In addition, no one is wearing masks. The event was held outside though and guests had to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results to enter. Since James wasn’t in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, and the event was held outside, he was not asked to quarantine.
While the league ruled that LeBron James did violate protocols, he did not put player and personnel at risk. Regardless many fans and analysts believe the NBA let James off the hook because of his superstar status. Barkley tends to agree.
“The NBA ain’t got the balls to suspend LeBron James. Zero,” Barkley said in a virtual interview. “Like sometimes you read stuff and just start laughing.”
“The NBA, they ain’t got no chance of suspending LeBron James. If it was a nobody, they would put him in health and safety protocols,” he said. “Ain’t no way LeBron James is going to be sitting out because of health and safety protocols.”
“Lebron James is playing Sunday. Guaaaaranteeed!” Barkley said with a laugh.
LeBron James Violates Protocols, Avoids Suspension
The Los Angeles Lakers recently beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA play-in tournament. Doing so earned the reigning champions the 7th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Yet the Lakers almost missed out on having LeBron James in their lineup as they face the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
The NBA’s original health and safety protocols were much stricter pertaining to promotional events and endorsement responsibilities. On March 17th though, the league announced modified health and safety protocols. The NBA stated that “a fully-vaccinated player is permitted to appear at an event to fulfill his individual commitment to a sponsor.”
On Friday, James declined to reveal if he had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Therefore there seems to be some grey area on whether or not he should have been suspended or not. An NBA spokesperson confirmed the player’s violation in a recent statement. Although no suspensions have been announced, the league has addressed the issue with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s a violation of the agreed upon protocols,” a league spokesman said, according to a USA Today report. “As we have in other comparable instances around the league, it has been addressed with the team.”
LeBron James and the Lakers face the Suns on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. EST. The team is looking to retain their NBA title and earn back-to-back championships as their 2021 playoff run begins.