Earlier this week, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took to Substack to address the Spider-Man meme posted by LeBron James on Christmas Eve that features three cartoon superheroes labeled “cold,” “flu” and “covid” pointing at one another with the caption “help me out folks.”
The post, which remains on James’ Instagram page, has over two million likes and nearly 50,000 comments.
While Abdul-Jabbar commended James for being “a leader in the African American community in the fight against inequality,” he said the Lakers star’s post was “a blow to his worthy legacy” and implored him to use his platform to help the Black community “overcome their [vaccine] hesitancy and save lives.”
“Vaccine hesitancy is higher in the Black community than in any other,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “While there are certainly justifiable historical reasons for Blacks to be skeptical of the health care system that has routinely marginalized, ignored, and even illegally experimented on them, that is not enough to justify compromising their health and even losing their lives during the current health crisis.
“To directly address LeBron’s confusion, no one thinks colds and the flu aren’t serious. In the 2019-2020 flu season, 400,000 people were hospitalized and 22,000 people died. In 2020, 385,428 people died of COVID-19, while so far in 2021, 423,558 have died in the U.S., for a total of 808,986 deaths. Experts agree that COVID-19 is at least 10 times more lethal than the flu. As for the common cold, death is extremely rare.”
“While LeBron is a necessary and dynamic voice critical of police brutality against the Black community, he needs to be the same necessary and dynamic advocate with vaccines, which could save thousands of Black lives right now,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “The racism is just as real—and just as lethal—in both cases.”
Following a win over the Rockets on Tuesday, James was asked if he had a response to Abdul-Jabbar’s essay. He initially said no before explaining his reasoning for posting the meme.
“No, I don’t have a response to Kareem at all,” James said. “And if you saw the post and you read the tag, you know that I’m literally, honestly asking, ‘Help me out.’ Help me kind of figure it all out, like we’re all trying to figure this pandemic out.
“We’re all trying to figure out COVID and the new strain. And the flu, I think people forgot about the flu. People like literally forgot about the flu during these times, like that’s still going around. It’s flu season, so people have forgot about the flu. People have forgot about common colds. That happens, especially with a lot of our kids that’s in school.
“My daughter is in first grade, so a lot of these kids are getting like common colds and getting the flu. But no, I don’t have any response to Kareem. No. At all.”
Titled “Dear LeBron: Here’s the COVID-19 Help You Requested in Your Spider-Man Meme,” Abdul-Jabbar’s full essay to James can be read here.