When Dwight Howard obfuscated from the story about him getting in trouble with the NBA for not wearing a mask by saying that people should instead focus on the fact that Breonna Taylor’s killers still haven’t been brought to justice, it was a little easier to ignore the somewhat self-serving context of his timing for delivering that message because of how important the message itself is.
But even during a to-this-point fun season in which Howard has mostly seemed to redeem himself in the eyes the Lakers, their fans and the NBA world as a whole and do just about everything right, there are some things we can’t defend. He almost made it the whole season without messing up, but that streak came to an end on Sunday during an Instagram Live appearance during which Howard espoused that he doesn’t believe in vaccines, seemed to (again) question the importance of masks and called discussion of his mistake “clickbait.”
Dwight Howard says he doesn't believe in vaccinations.— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) July 19, 2020
"That's my personal opinion, but I don't."
Dwight Howard on masks: "I didn't know the coronavirus be flying through the air looking for people." pic.twitter.com/qzyDNd8k9Y— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) July 19, 2020
Dwight Howard: "If I'm alone I don't need to wear a mask."— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) July 19, 2020
"It's just like riding around in your car." pic.twitter.com/JIjSN2CeXk
Dwight Howard on masks: “I understand there always has to some kind of controversy somewhere.”— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) July 19, 2020
“It’s just some clickbait.” https://t.co/CXPfvtmAhf
Here is the clip of Howard saying he doesn’t believe in vaccines:
Here is the clip from Dwight Howard’s Instagram Live saying he does not believe in vaccinations . pic.twitter.com/MJqV2UwieI— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) July 19, 2020
I watched the Instagram Live, and the quotes above are accurate. You can watch the entire session for yourself here (at least until it likely gets taken down later after whatever seemingly inevitable apology and walk-back comes from this).
Now, to be as fair as possible to Howard, his point on masks seemed to be that he didn’t need a mask if he was by himself, something he also said on Saturday and is a somewhat fair point, as he also did talk about why they’re important on the outside world and while with other people. The rest of this is dangerous science denialism that has to be pushed back on as strongly as possible.
Vaccines are not dangerous. The movement against them is fueled by a debunked study that utilized manipulated data and word-of-mouth conspiracy theories.
There is this idea, usually espoused by people who are saying something that is factually untrue, that “you can’t say an opinion is wrong.” That’s absolutely not the case. It’s one thing to have an opinion about something somewhat subjective and arguable, like who the best basketball player of all-time is. Sure, maybe that can’t be “wrong.” But if your opinion that you’re going to share to your 2.7 million Instagram followers is that you don’t believe in vaccines that are our main defense against diseases of the past, you’re just wrong, and need to be fact-checked as such.
This is tremendously disappointing stuff from Howard, and hopefully he gets the opportunity to learn from it and become more educated in the way he clearly has from past mistakes. That’s all any of us can hope for when we slip up, and while this is a particularly damaging thing for someone of Howard’s reach to espouse, he also should be given the opportunity to learn and walk this back, if he’s willing to.