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John Stockton featured in anti-vaxx film questioning COVID-19

Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, left, drives to the basket past Sacramento Kings guard Nick Anderson during the first quarter at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2000.  (RICH PEDRONCELLI/AP)

An anti-vaccine film is drawing attention this week as it features NBA Hall of Famer and Spokane native John Stockton casting aspersions on COVID-19 vaccines.

The film is produced by Vaccines Revealed, the same group that made the film “Vaxxed.” It attempts to cast doubt on the pandemic and the efficacy of the vaccines.

A clip from the film shows Stockton implying that the virus was being used as a form of control or a fear tactic.

“This isn’t the virus cheating us of these opportunities; it’s the guys making decisions saying, ‘No, no, we’re too scared; we’re going to shut everything down. Sit in your house and be careful,’ ” Stockton said in the film. “My kids and grandkids hearing these things and accepting them as truth when I know by my significant amount of research that it isn’t, and it’s very frustrating.”

It turns out that where you do your research matters.

The American death toll from COVID-19 is over 600,000, including more than 650 in Spokane County. Some patients who got COVID-19 and survived continue suffering from debilitating symptoms that have changed their way of life.

Films like the one by Vaccines Revealed are intended to push a counternarrative that is inaccurate or pseudo-science, said Richard Carpiano, a public health scientist and sociologist at the University of California Riverside.

Vaccines Revealed’s nine-part documentary series about COVID-19 and the vaccine features four people included on the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s list of the “disinformation dozen.”

The group researched 12 anti-vaxxers with online followings and presences that regularly shared misinformation, and in their analysis of anti-vaccine content posted to Facebook over 689,000 times in the last two months, 73% of that content originated from this dozen of online anti-vaxxers.

National Public Radio reported on the Center’s findings and social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, subsequently began deplatforming some of these doctors or pundits or flagging certain content they were publishing.

The Vaccines Revealed group and some of those featured in the film claim they are being censored.

The anti-vaccine movement is not new, but the pandemic has turned it into a broader anti-public health movement, Carpiano said.

Using celebrities, like Stockton, for these kinds of films is predominantly a public relations move, Carpiano said.

Stockton could potentially appeal to a demographic that is already hesitating to get vaccinated in some parts of the country. Carpiano said that Republicans, who are predominantly white, and men are more likely to not get vaccinated.

Carpiano was critical of people saying they have done their own research on issues such as vaccines.

“There’s a difference between ‘you’ve done your own research’ and going to the doctor and getting a real diagnosis on something,” he said.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.