NBA legend and on-air television personality Shaquille O’Neal, who has been publicly outspoken about his support of COVID-19 vaccinations, expressed a slightly different opinion this week in an interview on his podcast, saying he does not believe the vaccine should be forced by employers.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner on his self-titled The Big Podcast with Shaq, the former basketball player took a new stance on COVID-19 vaccinations, telling her, “Look, I encourage everybody to be safe and take care of your family, I do. But there’s still some people that don’t wanna take it. And you shouldn’t have to be forced to take something you don’t want.”
This is in contrast to some of his public statement earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, when he came out publicly against current NBA players like Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, who refused the vaccine and is unable to play in Nets home games due to New York City’s vaccine mandate requiring all athletes to be vaccinated.
In November, O’Neal chastised Irving on his podcast in November last year, saying, “In this game of ours, sometimes you have to think about other people rather than yourself.” He continued, “…if you’re on my team and you can’t play home games, I don’t want you around. Like, we have a chance to win and if you ain’t on the program, go somewhere else, period.”
When Turner pointed out to O’Neal that her employer, CBS, has a vaccine mandate, he replied, “That’s forced.” He repeated, “It is forced. Because if the man don’t take it, the man gonna get fired.”