NHL has to show it won’t ‘jump the line’ on COVID-19 vaccines after tweet makes league look bad
With just one tweet Thursday, the NHL had another PR problem. A follow-up tweet didn’t improve things much.
Now the league has to show that it isn’t tone-deaf and callous when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.
The tweet that got the NHL more bad publicity came from longtime NHL insider John Shannon. A source told him the league was working on buying a private stock of vaccines to be distributed to league personnel for the 2021 season, which reportedly will begin Jan. 13.
Source confirms that the NHL is planning the private purchase of a COVID vaccine for all constituents involved in the potential upcoming season.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) December 10, 2020
Current vaccine supplies can cover only small portions of the U.S. and Canada, and so initial government distributions will focus on people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, caregivers, health care workers and other people deemed as “essential” employees. A private purchase can be viewed as depriving people of vital medicine.
That’s why the internet reacted harshly to Shannon’s tweet. People also connected the situation to the Flames organization controversially receiving flu shots privately in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak.
— Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) December 11, 2020
This is wrong on every level.
— Jody Vance (@jodyvance) December 10, 2020
As they say, not the best optics if it means NHL gets to cut to front of the line.
— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) December 11, 2020
Some things never change: Alberta Health Queue-Jumping Inquiry: Calgary Flames Were Told To Lie About VIP Access To Flu Shots – January 2013. https://t.co/ebA0r8pCqi
— Chad Saunders (@chadmsaunders) December 11, 2020
Exactly 92 minutes after Shannon sent his tweet, he posted a follow-up:
The NHL is interested in securing vaccine when and if it’s available for private purchase.
Is it at this point? — no.
The league also is adamant they would not jump the line to do so.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) December 11, 2020
Private purchases reportedly won’t be available until sometime in the first quarter of 2021, at the earliest.
So was the initial wording about the “upcoming season” wrong? Or did the NHL get caught trying to secure doses before they should receive them and then leaked a backpedal to save face? The internet leaned toward the latter.
The league has not commented publicly on Shannon’s reporting.
Now Gary Bettman and Co. are in a tough spot: They have to convince fans and media that the league won’t seek special treatment during early vaccine distribution, which could begin later this month in the U.S. and Canada.
They’ll need to explicitly state that they won’t “jump the line.” And then they’ll have to show they’re serious by actually waiting their turn, even if that means players won’t be immunized in the early part of the season.