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Shaquille O’Neal says people ‘shouldn’t be forced’ to get COVID-19 vaccine

Shaquille O’Neal says he’s “sympathetic” towards people who defy vaccine mandates, and that workers shouldn’t be “forced” to choose between their jobs and getting a shot.

“I encourage everybody to be safe and take care of your family, I do,” the former Los Angeles Lakers star said Thursday on “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”

“But it’s just, people don’t want to take it, and you shouldn’t be forced to take something you don’t want,” O’Neal said, referring to COVID-19 vaccines, which protect against being hospitalized or dying from the coronavirus.

The basketball hall of famer’s remarks came up during a discussion with co-hosts Nischelle Turner and former San Francisco 49ers player Anthony “Spice” Adams on the recent arrest of two Long Island nurses who were accused of making more than $1.5 million off of forged COVID-19 vaccination cards. 

“Don’t send them to jail!” O’Neal — who last year criticized Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving for voicing hesitancy toward the COVID-19 vaccine — exclaimed. 

“I’m gonna probably get in trouble for this,” O’Neal continued, offering a hypothetical situation involving a fictional co-worker of “Entertainment Tonight” co-host Turner.

“Say Nischelle, your sound guy at ‘ET’ been working there 10 years. That [job is] all you know.”

“Let’s just say ‘ET’ puts out a new policy: If you don’t get the vaccination, you’re going to lose your job,” O’Neal said, suggesting it was unfair for people to choose between their livelihoods and “going against [their] morals” by getting vaccinated.

Turner countered that she “wholeheartedly disagreed” with O’Neal.

“You’re not just affecting yourself,” Turner said, “you’re putting the public at risk and it’s a public health issue.”

More than 850,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic.

“You work for a private company, bro,” Turner continued. “We’re a capitalist society. It’s a free market society. If you don’t want to follow that company’s policy, then you follow yourself on out the door.”

“I’m with you on the rules because I’m a rules guy,” O’Neal agreed. “But I do feel sympathetic towards people who have to make that kind of decision.” 

“I don’t,” Turner said, “not when you’re putting other people at risk.”

Tags COVID-19 vaccine mandates Shaquille O'Neal Vaccine hesitancy

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