Stephen A. Smith told Bill Maher he agreed with him that “it’s your body” when it comes to athletes being unvaccinated following a viral clip of Smith slamming NBA star Kyrie Irving for refusing to get the COVID vaccine.
During the ESPN host’s appearance on the “Club Random with Bill Maher” podcast Monday, Maher asked Smith about his past comments regarding Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving “regress[ing] to an alarming level of self-righteousness” after Irving spoke out against the vaccine mandate. Smith said it makes Irving look “stupid.”
“I don’t know what you thought of the athletes who didn’t want to get vaccinated, and I don’t want to get into a big fight about it, because I will,” the host said. “But I was on their side. Because health is a case-by-case basis, and when you’re a finely-tuned athlete with a body that is perfect, because that’s your living, you put in that body only what you want to put on to keep that instrument, that is your instrument.”
“The idea that [Novak] Djokovic was going to hurt anybody, or Aaron Rodgers, or, oh my gosh, Kyrie Irving, I mean, clutch my pearls,” he added. “I thought ‘Bully for you guys for standing,’ especially Kyrie Irving, because he gave up a lot of money, although he’ll get it back, because he can play now, right?”
“Let me be very clear,” Smith replied. “I don’t disagree with you. … Yeah, it’s your body, and somebody is trying to tell you what to inject into your body. I didn’t like it, I was very reluctant and hesitant about getting vaccinated. But obviously it’s made very clear, you know, you want to work here in these corridors, you need to do this, right?”
“Here’s where I held it against Kyrie,” he added. “It had nothing to do with being vaccinated … or being unvaccinated, in my mind. What bothered me is that you are a superstar on a team that is a championship contender, and everybody is there because of you…”
“But it’s still his body,” Maher interjected.
“All I’m saying is, it’s your right,” Smith replied. “But I’m thinking about it from a competitive perspective. A lot of dudes in the NBA didn’t want to do it. But you’re playing for a championship.”
Maher reiterated that it’s a person’s body that the vaccine is now inside of, and “we just don’t know that much. Even though they think they do. … Because nobody can realistically look you in the eye and say we are a million percent sure there’s just no doubt that no harm can come, and I’m talking about down the road.”
Smith admitted that despite his hesitancy, he got the vaccine, but then caught a bad case of COVID and ended up in the hospital in December.
“I had COVID. I was double vaccinated, I hadn’t taken the booster shot yet,” the ESPN host said. “Damn thing almost killed me because I had an endoscopy prior to acquiring COVID. I had double pneumonia. … So I understand where everybody’s coming from and I get all of that, but I also say this to you — when it comes to professional athletes, you know how much stuff gets put in their body that they have no damn clue whatsoever what it is?”
The HBO host disputed his claim and said athletes like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers know exactly what they are putting in their body.
“Well, obviously, it didn’t work on you,” Maher added, noting that Smith got COVID after two vaccination shots.
“I’m acknowledging I don’t know,” Smith replied. “But what I’m saying is that I don’t know and yet I’m here in this situation. On one hand, they’re telling me because I was vaccinated, that’s why I’m alive. And in my mind, a part of me is saying, but dammit, I was double vaccinated, should have never got the damn thing.”