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Gonzaga suspends John Stockton’s season tickets after he fails to follow mask mandate

John Stockton, the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals, has had his season tickets suspended by his alma mater, Gonzaga. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
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John Stockton, a Basketball Hall of Famer who is one of the most storied players in Gonzaga history, was barred from attending the school’s home games because he and the university differ over a mask mandate put in place to combat the coronavirus.

Stockton, the NBA’s all-time assists and steals leader, told the Spokesman-Review in Spokane on Saturday that his season tickets had been suspended at McCarthey Athletic Center, where his jersey is one of only two that have been retired.

“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.”

Stockton, who has taken a stance against coronavirus vaccines, shutdowns and mask mandates, detailed his views last summer in a documentary titled “Covid and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.”

In the Spokesman-Review interview, he said he believes tens of thousands of people have died from vaccines.

“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.

Although it is not clear exactly what he meant, the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines have been well documented in the United States, where more than 210 million people have been vaccinated, and globally.

And as of September, unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stockton said the decision to ban him from games at the school, which has the top-ranked men’s team and was the national runner-up to Baylor last year, came after “multiple” conversations with administrators.

“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,” Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford said in a statement to the Spokesman-Review. “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.”

Stockton and his wife sit about five rows behind the scorers’ table at the arena, where two of their children, David and Laura, had standout basketball careers. Another son, Sam, spent a year at Gonzaga before transferring.

“I’m pretty connected to the school,” Stockton said. “I’ve been part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was just born a couple blocks away and sneaking into the gym and selling programs to get into games since I was a small boy. So it’s strained but not broken, and I’m sure we’ll get through it, but it’s not without some conflict.”

The school requires proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result taken within the previous 72 hours to attend home athletic events. The suspension of concessions sales was a means to promote the mask mandate.