NBA Hall of Fame inductee John Stockton, the league's all-time assists and steals leader, confirmed Sunday that his alma mater, Gonzaga University, has suspended his basketball season tickets for failing to comply with the school's mask mandate.
Stockton, one of only two players to have his number retired by Gonzaga, told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., that first-year Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford notified him of the university’s decision in a conversation the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame point guard described as “congenial” but also “not pleasant.”
“Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit,” Stockton said. “And therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups — those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up — they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”
As reported by The Spokesman-Review, Stockton has taken a strong stance against COVID-19 vaccines, shutdown measures and mask mandates, initially offering his views last June in a documentary titled, “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.”
During the interview Sunday, Stockton asserted that more than 100 professional athletes have died of vaccination, as have tens of thousands — perhaps millions — of other people.
“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,” Stockton said in the interview.
As The Spokesman-Review pointed out, such claims are dubious and not backed by science, nor are they deemed credible by medical professionals, according to FactCheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center, and research reported by PolitiFact, which is run by the Poynter Institute.
Stockton indicated he’s had “multiple” conversations with the school’s administration over the past two years before a recent decision was made to ban him from games. He said he doesn't think his relationship with Gonzaga is permanently damaged, but that it may take time to repair.
Standiford, GU’s first-year AD, declined to be quoted for this story but provided a statement from the university reinforcing the masking policy.
“Gonzaga University continues to work hard to implement and enforce the health and safety protocols mandated by the State and by University policy, including reinforcing the indoor masking requirement. Attendees at basketball games are required to wear face masks at all times,” Standiford told The Spokesman-Review in a statement. “We will not speak to specific actions taken with any specific individuals. We take enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety protocols seriously and will continue to evaluate how we can best mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 with appropriate measures. The recent decision to suspend concessions in McCarthey Athletic Center is an example of this approach.
“Gonzaga University places the highest priority on protecting the health and safety of students, employees and the community.”