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Public perceptions vary in the way three athletes – Kyrie Irving, Aaron Rodgers and Novak Djokovic – have handled their decision not to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in recent months, according to a study conducted for ESPN.
A majority of fans approve of how Irving has handled his decision, the survey conducted by Hart Research showed. Overall, more respondents approve of how the Brooklyn Nets star has handled his vaccination status (45%) than reject (40%, with 15% saying they do not know). These numbers rise to 46% approval, 41% disapproval and 13% do not know for self-described NBA fans.
For Rodgers, 49% of fans reject how the Green Bay Packers quarterback has handled his vaccination status, with 40% approving and 11% unsure. The numbers are the same for all fans and self-described NFL fans.
For Djokovic, 46% of all fans and 48% of tennis fans reject how he handled his vaccination status compared to the Australian Open (he was eventually deported from Australia before the tournament started after discrepancies were found in his visa application). But 42% of all fans and 43% of tennis fans approve of it.
Overall, the survey showed that two out of three sports fans want to see athletes vaccinated (66% to 34%), 55% agree that athletes have a responsibility to publicly state whether they have been vaccinated (36% disagree; 8% do not have a feeling in one way or another), and 59% believe that unvaccinated players harm their teams because they are more likely to miss matches (33% disagree; 8% do not have a feeling of one way or another).
However, 56% of respondents agree that unvaccinated players stand up for their own rights by choosing not to be vaccinated (36% disagree; 8% are undecided).
The study was conducted for ESPN by Hart Research during the 16-18. January and surveyed 1,002 adults aged 18 and over in a nationally representative online survey.