Obama, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley Urge Communities of Color to Get Vaccinated

Obama, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley Urge Communities of Color to Get Vaccinated barack obama and shaquile oneal stand on baskatball court President Barack Obama and former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal walk together on the basketball court during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House March 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 19 April 2021 10:49 AM

Former President Barack Obama and basketball icons Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley joined together for a special program to encourage minority communities to get vaccinated against COVID-19 that aired on NBC over the weekend.

"As the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones, African American, Latino, as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal, and the sooner we get more people vaccinated, the better off we’re gonna be," Obama said in the special, called "Roll Up Your Sleeves," which aired on Sunday and was presented by Walgreens.

He and Barkley went on to note the history of experimentation on Black men, particularly the Tuskegee syphilis study, and the lack of trust that created.

"The irony is when you know about the Tuskegee experiment, what was going on there was, the government withheld treatment that was available for Black men for syphilis. It wasn’t that they made them sick by giving them medicine, it’s that they didn’t give them medicine they needed," Obama said.

"I cannot wait," added Barkley. "I think it's important for us to keep talking about the vaccine. So I'm telling my friends, 'Yo, man, forget what happened back in the day.' Every Black person, please go out and get vaccinated."

O’Neal said, "I'm not worried about me and my family," because they’ve been vaccinated due to preexisting health conditions, noting, "I'm worried about the average mom and dad."

Obama pointed out that many communities of color have higher rates of certain health conditions such as diabetes, and that this can put people at a higher risk of having a severe reaction to COVID-19 if they contract the virus.

"Part of what we’re seeing now is there’s a different strain of the virus that’s come over. That’s now the dominant variant, and it’s actually hitting young people harder than the original version," he said.

"Part of the reason to get vaccinated is because it makes everybody safer. And it’s the same reason why, by the way, you know, we don’t have things like polio anymore. Measles used to kill people all the time. The reason we don’t see that is because kids get the vaccine before they even go to school," the former president continued.

The special, which was hosted by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara, also included appearances from President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria, and Jennifer Hudson, among others.