ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that James violated the NBA’s health and safety protocols by attending an event for his tequila brand Lobos earlier this week before his exciting play-in matchup with the Golden State Warriors. “It’s a violation of the agreed-upon protocols, and, as we have in other comparable instances around the league, it has been addressed with the team,” a league spokesperson told ESPN on Friday (May 21).
Photos hit social media showing some big names in attendance, including rapper Drake, actors Michael B. Jordan and Damson Idris, Lenny S, and more at the intimate “Taco Tuesday” event on a Monday as described by Lenny S on Instagram that honored James and the tequila brand.
Some fans initially questioned why James would be an event before a big game leading to Lenny S revealing that all attendees were tested and had to show proof of vaccination to gain entry to the event.
According to the league protocols, players who don’t follow the rules “are subject to warnings, fines, or suspensions.” Any player who violates the rules multiple times is subject to severe discipline. It appears James will get a slap on the wrist this time, and he will be available to play in Sunday’s first-round Western Conference Playoffs matchup with the Phoenix Suns, which will see him face his good friend Chris Paul for the first time in postseason play.
Interestingly enough, before the league’s announcement, James was asked by a reporter on Friday if the consequences of being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols during the playoffs, which could mean him not being available for 10-14 days, played any part in his decision whether or not to get vaccinated.
James, who has been very coy about his vaccination status, responded, “Anything I do off the floor is predicated to my family, for the majority — for 99.9% of that. So it’s about the health and safety of my family, and that’s what it came down to.
“Me being available to my teammates on the floor is me taking care of my body. Me doing everything I can do to make sure I’m available both mentally, physically and spiritually, as well. But anything of that nature, that’s all family talk,” he continued.
When the reporter inquired if James was vaccinated, he responded, “It’s not a big deal,” chuckling after keeping in line with his response during All-Star Weekend when asked about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That’s a conversation my family and I will have,” he said in March. “I’ll keep that to a private thing.”
James’ vaccination status could have possibly been revealed by his teammate Dennis Schroder, who recently came off a 10-day stint in the league’s health and safety protocols. Speaking with a German-language publication earlier this month, he said that both he and James were the only two Lakers yet to receive the vaccine.
He updated his statement when speaking with reporters, saying, “I’m the only guy that didn’t get vaccinated. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel seemingly confirmed Schroder’s statement while not implementing James, saying there is at least one other Laker besides the point guard who is not vaccinated, keeping the team short of the 85% vaccination threshold the league requires. A minimum of 15 out of 17 players must be vaccinated for a team to have its health and safety restrictions lessened.
“We have not reached it yet, but we’re still hopeful,” Vogel revealed. “And I think there’s obvious benefits from the standpoint of us being able to do more things with each other in the cities that we’re going to. Something that’s been absent leaguewide in terms of team building and team bonding for all of us.
“It’s been a challenge. So if we’re able to reach that threshold, then, obviously, we can do more.” he further added.
Despite the team leaders’ mum stance on vaccinations, the Lakers have teamed up with the L.A. County Department of Public Health to incentivize getting vaccinated by people who chose to get the potential lifesaving shot season tickets for next season.
Photo: George Pimentel / Getty