John Stockton, perhaps the greatest to do so at Gonzaga University, seems to be at odds with his alma mater.
The university recently suspended the famed alumnus’ season tickets following his refusal to comply with the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate.
In an interview with the Speaker’s Review (Spokane, Washington), Stockton, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and one of only two Gonzaga players to have their jerseys retired, confirmed the cause of his recent absence from the Bulldogs’ home games. He said he was notified of the university’s decision to suspend his tickets after a “nice” but “not pleasant” conversation with Gonzaga freshman athletic director Chris Standiford.
“Basically, it came down to me being asked to wear a mask in games and being a public figure, someone a little more visible, standing out from the crowd a little bit,” Stockton told Spokesman-Review. “And so they received complaints and they felt that from above, that was not discussed, but whatever was above, they were going to have to ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend me. Tickets.”
Gonzaga requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours to attend sporting events at home in addition to his mask mandate. Stockton, who said he is aware of his public image, said he considered wearing the mask but ultimately decided against it.
The earliest he will be able to return to watch Gonzaga’s home games will be the 2022-23 season, and even then only if the university and Washington state change their COVID-19 prevention protocols.
“When the rule changes, tickets will be offered again,” Stockton said. I don’t know what the correct terminology is. When the rule changes.
Standiford declined to comment to Spokesman-Review, instead offering a statement from the university on the school’s mask policy:
“Gonzaga University continues to work hard to implement and enforce state-mandated health and safety protocols and university policy, including reinforcing the indoor mask requirement. Attendees of basketball games are required to wear face masks at all times,” the statement read. “We will not talk about specific actions taken with specific individuals. We are serious about enforcing COVID-19 health and safety protocols and will continue to assess how we can best mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 with appropriate measures. The recent decision to suspend concessions at the McCarthey Athletic Center is an example of this approach.
Stockton is a prominent opponent of the COVID-19 vaccine. He released a documentary in June titled “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed” in which he shared his views on efforts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. He also appears regularly on the “DNP-CD Sports” podcasts, whose hosts have expressed anti-vaccine views.
The Spokesman-Review reported that Stockton alleged during his interview that more than 100 athletes had died as a result of receiving the vaccine, some during competition, a claim that is dubious at best and unsupported by medical science.
“I think it’s highly recorded now, I think there’s 150 now, it’s over 100 dead professional athletes, professional athletes, in the prime of their lives, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the field, right on the field, right on the court,” Stockton said.
Stockton, a native of Spokane, played four seasons at Gonzaga from 1980 to 1984. During his senior season in 1983-84, he led the West Coast Athletic Conference in scoring, assists and steals. He continued that excellence on the court with a 19-year NBA career with the Utah Jazz that resulted in him becoming the league’s all-time leader in steals and assists.
That said, he has more ties to his college than just his game days. He also has three children who attended school there: son David and daughter Laura played basketball for the Bulldogs; while another son, Sam, spent a year in gray jersey before transferring to Lewis-Clark State.
Stockton said his current relationship with the university is “strained” but believes it will eventually mend after a while.
“I think it certainly accentuates (the relationship with Gonzaga). I’m pretty connected to the school,” Stockton said. “I’ve been a part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was born a couple of blocks away and had been sneaking into the gym and selling programs to get into the games since I was a little kid. So, it’s tense but not broken, and I’m sure we’ll get through it, but not without some conflict.”