NBA explains why LeBron James wasn't suspended for breaking league's COVID-19 protocol

·3 min read

Amid blowback over perceived preferential treatment for LeBron James, the NBA explained on Monday why it declined to suspend him for breaking the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. 

James reportedly attended an event promoting a tequila brand alongside Drake and Michael B. Jordan prior to the Lakers' play-in game against the Golden State Warriors last week. The appearance reportedly violated the league's COVID-19 protocols, but the league declined to suspend or isolate James for the violation. 

Since the appearance, James has played in the game against the Warriors and in Sunday's playoff Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns. His availability has prompted criticism of a double standard for the Lakers star during the playoffs where other players have been forced to sit for protocol violations. 

For instance, Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was fined $50,000 and forced to miss time in the league's health and safety protocols after a reported trip to a strip club in April

NBA's explanation for lack of LeBron suspension

On Monday, NBA spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement explaining that James' appearance didn't create a health risk that required quarantine.

"To clarify any remaining misconception, LeBron James briefly attended an outdoor event last week where participants were required to be vaccinated or return a negative test result," the statement reads. "Under these circumstances and in consultation with medical experts, it was determined that his attendance did not create risks related to the spread of COVID-19 and therefore no quarantine was necessary."

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 05: (L-R) Lebron James and Drake attend the Drake And Lebron James Pool Party In Toronto For Caribana 2017 on August 5, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin)
LeBron James, seen here in a 2017 appearance with Drake, was not suspended for a recent promotional appearance. (Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin)

NBA: Other players escaped ban for similar violations

The NBA also noted that other players have committed similar violations during the season and were not suspended or placed in quarantine. While Porter's suspension arrived after a reported trip to the unregulated environment of a strip club, James attended an event where attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result. 

“Over the course of this season, there have been numerous similar violations of the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, which were addressed with the players’ team in a similar fashion," the statement read. 

The league didn't provide examples of the situations it cited.

Has James been vaccinated?

The NBA also noted in Monday's statement that players who have been vaccinated are permitted to participate in outdoor events to meet sponsorship commitments. 

"Under current NBA rules, vaccinated players are permitted to engage in outside activities including their individual commercial arrangements such as sponsor appearances or ad shoots," the statement continues.

James has declined to publicly divulge whether or not he's been vaccinated. 

Despite James' availability, the Lakers looked outmatched in their Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns as Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton outplayed James and Anthony Davis. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, with the No. 7 seed Lakers listed as 1.5-point favorites over the second-seeded Suns. 

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