Q&A: John Stockton talks Gonzaga basketball suspension, COVID-19 vaccine opposition and more
Sun., Jan. 23, 2022
John Stockton recently cracked an NBA list celebrating the 75 greatest players of all time, but national headlines including the name of the Hall of Fame point guard have centered not only around what Stockton achieved in a Utah Jazz uniform over two decades, but a series of contentious comments he’s made about the state of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with The Spokesman-Review on Saturday at Stockton’s Spokane-based basketball gym, The Warehouse, the former Gonzaga standout doubled down on comments made in an anti-vaccine documentary last June, confirmed he’s had his season tickets suspended by GU for failing to comply with the school’s mask mandate and spoke at length about his views on COVID-19 in year three of the pandemic.
Many of his views regarding COVID-19, vaccines and masking run counter to peer-reviewed research, advice and recommendations of medical experts.
A transcript of Stockton’s answers, which have been shortened for brevity, can be found below.
The Spokesman-Review: Do you think your suspension will fracture any relationships you have with the people at Gonzaga or impact your status there?
John Stockton: “I think certainly it stresses it. I’m pretty connected to the school. I’ve been part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was just born a couple blocks away and sneaking into the gym and selling programs to get into games since I was a small boy. So, it’s strained but not broken and I’m sure we’ll get through it, but it’s not without some conflict.”
S-R: Are you concerned at all about your image at the school now, maybe as opposed to a few months ago?
Stockton: “I’m very concerned about my image. I understand I’m a public figure and they show me at every game, so they understand it as well. I take that responsibility very seriously, both when I’m around campus and when I’m not. It’s a lifestyle, so of course I do.”
S-R: Had they asked you about mask-wearing previously? It seems like they’ve really cracked down on masks since closing concession sales recently. Had they spoken to you about it before the new year?
Stockton: “Well, we’ve had discussions about this for a couple years now. In fact, we’ve actually had two events scheduled where we were trying to organize brilliant speakers on both sides of the equation and try to have an open forum. Open publicly to debate, to discussion, to understanding. Both have been canceled due to I believe the governor’s mandates or their reaction to the governor’s mandates. So yeah, we’ve been in discussions about various COVID things for a couple years now.”
S-R: Do you still plan to help the school in the meantime? Not donations specifically, but however you’ve helped Gonzaga in the past, do you still plan to do that in the near future?
Stockton: “I think this is one impasse. There’s probably a lot of different directions this can go and I think time will tell on all of that. My focus is to maintain that relationship, as is theirs. They’ve made it very clear that we’re important to each other and I don’t think that’s going to change. However, there are some absolute impasses that we’re going to have to figure out.”
S-R: Are there any hard feelings from their side do you think, or from your side? Or is this just something you have to get through given the circumstances?
Stockton: “I can’t speak for if they have hard feelings. When I leave the office or when we’re speaking on the phone, I’ve had great experiences here all the way back from the Dan Fitzgerald days through when he was coaching and an AD, to the presidents of the school. Like I said, I’ve been around here a long time, so I don’t expect things to linger, whatever they may be.”
S-R: Your first public comments about COVID and the vaccine came last year when the trailer was revealed for the documentary, “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.” How were you identified for the film and were you reluctant to participate knowing your image is what it is?
Stockton: “No, I think knowing my image is what it is, I feel a duty to speak and I sought it out. I wasn’t offered anything for it, I did it on my own and found people that do a good job at it. Was glad to be a part of it.”
S-R: In a separate podcast you’ve been on a few times (DNP-CD Sports), you said, “Things that I never thought could possibly happen in my lifetime in the United States of America are happening right before my eyes.” Can you elaborate on that?
Stockton: “There’s a lot of things.”
S-R: “I know that’s pretty open-ended …”
Stockton: “It sure is. There’s a lot that goes into that. I never thought in my life I could lose my tickets because I wouldn’t wear a mask to a game. I never thought I’d see mandated drugs. I never thought I would see contact tracing to where neighbors and friends and people in the same arena with the same team they love ratting on one another. ‘Hey, that person’s not wearing a mask. ‘Hey, what’s their vaccine status?’ I never thought you’d have to report your medical records and I never thought you’d have to have some sort of papers to get on an airplane or go to a store or a restaurant. I never thought a government could shut down businesses, local businesses, put them out of business and lose their livelihoods because of one person making a decision. There’s a lot of things I thought would never happen that are happening right now.”
S-R: What was your initial reaction to the onset of the pandemic in 2020? It really started the week of the WCC Tournament. Gonzaga plays in the title game then suddenly the NCAA Tournament is shut down. How long does it take to form opinions on everything that’s going on, with the lockdowns and eventually vaccines, masks and everything else?
Stockton: “It’s pretty quick. I remember writing a paper trying to have some influence where I may have it, right when it all started with Rudy Gobert testing positive. With the Utah Jazz, which is obviously very close to home. Here he is warming up before the game, he doesn’t even feel bad and the world shuts down. Then one university after another university until the conferences shut down and the tournament shuts down. Not one additional piece of evidence was offered for why each one did it. To me it’s perplexing, but yeah, right from the start I was contemplating it, thinking it through and seeking out more and more information.”
S-R: You also say in the trailer of the documentary, “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, it’s very frustrating.” Are you conscious of how a statement like that is received by the general public? There’s a perception that those who claim, “I’ve done my own research,” assume they’re more knowledgeable than medical professionals, scientists, CDC, etc.
Stockton: “I don’t know how else you qualify it. I have done my research to the point of thousands of hours. I have some ability to do some things that other people might not because I am retired. I’m not working a 9-5 job, I’m not raising young kids, trying to run a business in an impossible environment. I have time so I spend, I don’t know, I’m well over 1,000 hours of watching videos, reading documents and confirming documents. So if you read them in one spot, you say, ‘OK I’ve heard it, that’s one source. Is it a good source?’ You evaluate that, then you get it from another source and another source, then you get them from your own personal experiences. Really, that’s the final confirming point for me is when I see it in person and it corroborates what I’ve read and what I’ve witnessed. That’s my research there and nobody has to accept it. I have no credentials, I understand that, but it’s not without work.”
S-R: And you’re reading articles from both sides of this, so to speak, as far as pro-vaccine articles, anti-vaccine articles? Have you read both and formed your opinions based on that?
Stockton: “Yeah, I’d say so. The pro-vax, pro-mandates … are everywhere. I think our state has spent in the area of $100 million advertising for them. WashingtonState.gov. It’s not a surprise, it’s on TV every day. So you don’t have to work as hard to find those. It’s very difficult to find information that counters that and it takes a little bit more work.”
S-R: You also mention in one of those podcasts that six years into your NBA career – and you can correct me if I’m wrong – you decided to stop using traditional medicine. Can you talk about that decision and did that inform your beliefs on some of this?
Stockton: “Yeah, it wasn’t cold turkey. I’ve had cortisone shots, I’ve taken antibiotics. Antibiotics saved my life probably twice.”
S-R: And that was before you decided not to use traditional medicine or since then?
Stockton: “Eh, there was one that I, probably antibiotics saved my life after that decision. So it’s not strictly anti-medicine. I tend toward a holistic style. Again, it’s very difficult in this world to do it. Insurance doesn’t pay for it, it’s treating of the body – understanding what the body needs instead of treating a symptom with medications and chemicals. It’s what I’ve chosen largely from that point forward.”
S-R: Was there an experience that forced you to start thinking that way?
Stockton: “Yeah, multiple experiences. One is, I took anti-inflammatants for about a year and a half and some of that is what they call pulsing. So they take a course for 15 days then you take 10 days off. It’s funny that comes up because one of those anti-inflammatants I took is now banned. You went through all the 10 years of testing to be tested OK and approved by the FDA. Then it was later banned because it ruined people’s hearts. That was one of the ones I took for quite a long time. Make a long story short, I walked into our team chiropractor’s office, who I was just starting to gain a little faith in. It was slow coming, because I grew up, my mom was a nurse, my sister was a nurse and it was a little slow coming because I didn’t trust him. But he fixed the problem in 15 minutes that I was taking anti-inflammatants for a year and a half. It opened my eyes. It didn’t sell me, but got it started.”
S-R: Another quote from the podcast, “I’ve heard about people where their kids have said, ‘You can’t see the grandkids, Mom and Dad, unless you get vaccinated. If my kids did that, that’d be it. That’s how important it is to me that I would forego seeing my grandkids if that was the choice. There is no reason to do it.’ ” Do you still stand by that?
Stockton: “As I said it and as I meant it, yeah. How you’re reading it, I can’t always be sure. My point is this: There’s nothing that anybody could do that would tell me that the right thing to do would be take this vaccine, any of them. If my kids, the parents of my grandchildren, were in that mode to where it’s not safe, then I’d have to forgo it because there’s nothing worth taking those chemicals into my body.”
S-R: A counterpoint to that: The CDC reported this week that booster shots are 90% effective at preventing hospitalization with the omicron variant.
Stockton: “Almost everybody I know that currently has COVID or has recently tested for COVID has been double-vaxxed and boosted. My personal experience says otherwise. Statistics from South Africa, from Scotland, from the UK who’s now, their prime minister recently said we’re not doing the mandates anymore. Came out publicly and said that. Those are indicators to me that we’re not getting the true story. The numbers in South Africa are significantly better in multiples than they are in the United States where they haven’t taken on those mandates where we have.”
S-R: When you say your personal experience, do you mean your personal experience with having COVID?
Stockton: “With people that I know personally that have COVID, that have tested positive recently. Whether it’s omicron, whatever COVID is these days, is they’ve all been – almost all have been double vaccinated plus the booster. So I look at it more as a side effect than I look at it as an outbreak of COVID.”
S-R: You were raised Catholic. The Pope has called it a moral obligation to receive the vaccine. What’s your response to that and does that impact your decision at all?
Stockton: “No. No, it doesn’t.”
S-R: Any way you could elaborate on that?
Stockton: “I think we count on certain people in certain institutions to stand up to what’s best for us and it’s disappointing when those things don’t happen.”
S-R: Have you spoken to religious leaders around Gonzaga or Spokane about any of this? Have they urged you to reconsider?
Stockton: “I have and no.”
S-R: I’m sure you followed the situation locally with Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich, who was terminated for not receiving the vaccine. What was your reaction to how that scenario unfolded and what would you say to him?
Stockton: “I remember Bill Walton going up to – it’s a famous story now, Bill Walton tells it all the time now. He goes up to John Wooden, says, ‘Coach I don’t like the team rule of can’t have a beard, etc., etc.’ and he’s maybe one of the greatest college players of all time. Says, ‘I think I’m going to wear a beard.’ Coach Wooden said, ‘Bill, I respect you for your opinion and your ability to stand up for it. The team’s going to miss you.’ I think that’s kind of what we’re missing. We need parents and coaches and mentors and members of institutions that stand up and say, this is what’s right and not because we’re being told from above or that there’d be repercussions from it, but this is the right thing to do and that’s the way we’re going to do it. That’s the point.
“What I’d say to him is good for you. You have every right to know what’s put into your body and you have every right to make that choice. I’m not sure you have the right to be fired for it. We talked about consequences, it’s been adjudicated. Consequences mean if you don’t do the vaccine that you could get the disease, not that you could lose your job. It’d be interesting to see how that plays out, but bottom line I’m proud of (Rolovich). It’s a difficult stance to make, it’s cost his family probably and his reputation dearly. I believe he applied for religious exemption and it’s odd it’s come down to that.
“Prior to 2020, there was three exemptions you could use. You could use medical, you could use religious and you could use personal or philosophical. For some reason, this personal and philosophical has just been wiped off the list even though it’s part of our rights. Medical’s been wiped off the list because now if you are health challenged, these people are telling you that you must have the vaccine for your safety where before 2020 it was a reason for an exemption all by itself. Now we’re finally putting it into the hands into the health department whether we have religious fervor or not. They’re deciding whether we’re believers or not and to me there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”
S-R: What’s been the response to some of the comments you’ve made? I’ve seen the social media reaction, but what’s been the response you’ve received from people in the community, people nationally since you went on record last June?
Stockton: “I don’t know. I get great responses individually. I don’t have any platform. I don’t have any social media by any terms I understand, so a lot of that just goes by.”
S-R: Your son, David, is trying to carve out a career in the NBA and you mentioned in the podcast, if you’re someone of the ilk of LeBron James, they can make exceptions for someone who doesn’t want to be vaccinated. But if you’re a bottom-five, bottom-seven NBA player, you don’t really have a chance unless you get the shot. I’m not sure if you can speak to this, but has that made things challenging for David?
Stockton: “Oh sure. I think who’s been a great source of that is Aaron Rodgers. He spoke to that very point and he’s been highly criticized and highly critical of how things are going. I admire him. He’s right in the throes. So really impressive that a star would step up like that in the prime of his career going into the playoffs and be willing to make those statements for the people that are less fortunate than him. By that I mean the guys that are struggling to get just a foot in the door. Just, hope you see one time, I’ll show you I can play. Yeah, I think David has experienced that stuff. He’s played in two bubbles, he’s been separated from his family, he’s been required to test daily where nobody else has even though he hasn’t gotten COVID, the guys who’ve been vaccinated have gotten COVID. The opportunity to be called up has been restricted because of vaccine status. Really it should be nobody’s decision. It’s a personal decision and it’s a medical decision and so two years ago, it’s against the law to ask what your medical condition was.”
S-R: David’s been prevented from being called up from G-League to NBA because of it or called into a G-League situation?
Stockton: “I don’t know that.”
S-R: Is there anything else you’d want to say about any of this?
Stockton: “Getting back to the masks at Gonzaga, I just want to go and watch the games. I want to mind my own business, watch the games, go home and talk about the Zags. I look across at these students and think of what I would’ve given up at that time if they forced me to just so I could have these opportunities. That goes for the students that are playing, the students that are watching and I feel a duty to all of them. I believe they shouldn’t be mandated. The school currently requires vaccines to get in and that includes the booster now, with no evidence that they have any need to. Those children and kids their age, they have literally zero statistical risk of being harmed by the disease and they have significant statistical risk of being harmed by the side effects of the so-called vaccines.
“And I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now – it’s over 100 professional athletes dead, professional athletes, the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court. There’s 20,000 deaths from the vaccine that the CDC acknowledges from their VAERS system, which they acknowledge accounts for only 1% of actual. So the actual numbers more than likely are much larger than that, but that’s what they’re actually willing to concede. They shut down previous vaccine systems for 25 deaths and we’re well over 20,000 again that they concede. Over a million injuries.
“So, I’d like to encourage people, don’t trust me, don’t believe me. It’s out there, there’s places to look. The Children’s Health Defense is Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s site, it’s a wonderful site, it’s triple-checked, it’s peer-reviewed, they’re brilliant people with all the credentials both medical and nonmedical that you could ever want. Scientists that are collaborating on that, on each story, if you’re looking for information and want to make your own decisions, which is I think what this is all about, that’s what I would suggest.”
S-R: When you mention deaths from the vaccine, many will argue that there’s been far more deaths from COVID-19 than from the vaccine. How would you respond to that?
Stockton: “I think the numbers for people under 70 dying from COVID, understand the attribution. Recently a family member bonked her head and went to the hospital to get her head checked. She’s a COVID patient. That’s how she’s listed, as a COVID patient. So you have to look at how the attribution is happening. But even with that, CDC’s own acknowledgment, 99.97% – don’t quote me on that number, but it’s such a big 99 number that it’s 99.5% of people over 70 survive COVID. So, why we would take an experimental drug where the companies have no liability if something bad happens, to counter something that we’re at literally no risk of dying from if we eat well, live well, drink water, take care of our bodies in a holistic fashion, you’re literally at no risk and that’s what I would say to that.”
Editor’s note: Many of the claims made by Stockton regarding COVID-19 and vaccines are not backed by science nor deemed credible by medical professionals. Stockton’s statement that more than 100 athletes have died from the vaccine is unfounded and proven inaccurate according to FactCheck.org, which is a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center.
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