NHL has to show it won’t ‘jump the line’ on COVID-19 vaccines after tweet makes league look bad

NHL

NHL has to show it won’t ‘jump the line’ on COVID-19 vaccines after tweet makes league look bad

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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.

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.

MORE: How COVID-19 has already affected the World Juniors

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.

Exactly 92 minutes after Shannon sent his tweet, he posted a follow-up:

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.