Fact check on strange new Covid conspiracy theory: Athletes are dying from vaccines

Former NBA great John Stockton came to national attention earlier this week when he insisted in an interview that “there are 150 I believe now – it’s over 100 dead professional athletes, professional athletes, in their prime, dead who are vaccinated, right in the field, straight in the field, straight in the field.”
On Wednesday, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson spoke in an interview with Charlie Kirkthe boss of the conservative group Turning Point USA.
“We heard story after story, I mean all those athletes who drop dead on the field,” Johnson said. “But we’re supposed to ignore that. Nothing’s going on here. Nothing to see. It’s a travesty. It’s a scandal.”

Johnson’s office did not provide any details to back up his claim on Thursday. “The senator pushed for transparency in government, especially in our federal health agencies, so that the American people have as much information as possible before making health care decisions for themselves. and his family,” a spokeswoman said.

It’s not a scandal. Mainly because it doesn’t work.

The rumor seems to have started – like a lot of misinformation these days – from the pro-Trump website Gateway Pundit, which published an “article” on Dec. 6 with this headline: “Report Shows Nearly 300 Athletes Worldwide collapsed or suffered from heart disease Arrests after taking the COVID vaccine this year – Many have died.”

The “report” on which the Gateway Pundit article is based comes from a website called “Good Science” – an anonymously run website that is larded with anti-vaccine pseudoscience. “We are a small team of investigators, editors, reporters and truth seekers, now supported by others, who are uncovering information we can investigate,” reads the ‘About’ page. ” from the website. “It doesn’t matter who we are.”

Right.

Supply aside, it is worth looking into the claims of these types of websites. What Factcheck.org did. And found this:

“More than 300 athletes – including students, professionals, amateurs and retirees – from around the world were included. We reviewed publicly available information for each of the 19 professional athletes who came to or played in the United States. United. We found no evidence of a causal relationship in any of the cases between vaccines and injuries or deaths.”

And there’s also this: “Although Good Science claims that COVID-19 vaccines were responsible for deaths or injuries, the website provides no evidence in most cases – 16 out of 19 – that athletes and former athletes have even been vaccinated.”

What is happening here is the deliberate and deeply misleading confusion of correlation with causation.

Take the case of baseball great Hank Aaron. Aaron died two weeks after receiving his first dose of the Moderna vaccine. But, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner, Aaron, who was 86, died of natural causes.
Another episode frequently cited by these vaccine conspiracy theorists is the collapse of Dane Christian Eriksen last year at a major European football tournament. Immediately after the incident, social media lit up with claims that Eriksen’s meltdown was linked to the Covid-19 vaccine. The only problem? Eriksen was unvaccinated when he collapsed. (Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch but has since recovered.)

What stands out to me most about these kinds of claims is how easy they are to debunk. A simple Google search may reveal that things like the Gateway Pundit “story” or a tweet or Facebook message your uncle sent you are, in fact, totally and completely overlapping.

That’s bad enough anybody believe this scumbag. For a sitting US senator to not only believe it, but feel confident enough in these false reports to pass them on publicly is just plain awful. And deeply irresponsible.

This story has been updated to include additional comments from Johnson’s office.

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