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LeBron James violates COVID-19 protocols before start of NBA playoffs

Lakers, LeBron James

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James violated the NBA’s health and safety protocols by attending an event on Monday, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

Per McMenamin, via a league spokesperson:

James was one of several high-profile guests present at a promotional event for Lobos 1707, a tequila brand he backs, earlier this week before the Lakers’ play-in game against the Golden State Warriors.

The tequila was poured at a brief outdoor photo shoot, and invitees, including recording artist Drake and actor Michael B. Jordan, had to produce proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result in order to attend.

The Lakers’ forward was not wearing a mask in images from the party.

McMenamin’s report comes hours after LeBron gave another cryptic response when asked about the COVID-19 vaccine following the Lakers’ post-practice availability on Friday afternoon.

James — who opted not to reveal his stance on the vaccine during All-Star weekend in March — was specifically asked if the possibility of missing time due to health and safety protocols influenced his feelings towards the vaccine.

Here was the full exchange between James and Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register:

Goon: I know you’ve talked about how your availability for this team in the postseason is a huge factor for the team’s success. I was wondering if that value affected the way you thought about the COVID-19 vaccine and being available, not being in protocols?

LeBron: Nah. Nah. Anything I do off the floor is predicated to my family for the majority — 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 to make sure I’m available both mentally, physically, and spiritually, as well. But anything of that nature, that’s all family talk.

Goon: And do you mind me asking if you’re confirming that you did get the vaccine?

LeBron: Uh, it’s not, it’s not a big deal (chuckles).

Despite the breach of protocol, James will not be suspended for the Lakers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, provoking the ire of Twitter.

“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,” the league spokesperson told McMenamim.

Minutes after LeBron’s comments on Friday, Los Angeles head coach Frank Vogel revealed that the Lakers’ roster was short of the 85% vaccination threshold, which would ease restrictions during the playoff run.

Earlier this month, Dennis Schröder — after his second stint in protocols — told a German media outlet that he and LeBron were the only Lakers players yet to receive the COVID shot. Then, last week, Schröder said he was the lone unvaccinated Laker.

15 of 17 players on the active roster need to receive vaccines to hit the 85% mark.