Michael Jordan, LeBron James top list of athletes who could compel Americans to get COVID-19 vaccine

Daniel Roberts
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 11: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up prior to the start of the game against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up prior to the start of the game against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

The U.S. began rolling out the first COVID-19 vaccine this week, from Pfizer and BioNTech, while the FDA weighs approval of the Moderna vaccine. The next challenge is to get the majority of Americans to take the vaccine. A Yahoo Finance/Harris Poll survey conducted in October found that 63% of Americans have concerns about taking a vaccine, and 77% said they would comparison-shop.

President Trump and President-Elect Biden have said they plan to get the vaccine, while Dr. Anthony Fauci is willing to get his shot on camera to show the public the vaccine is safe. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama will all be getting theirs on camera as well.

Perhaps pro athletes could also help.

A new survey from Harris Poll asked 2,002 American adults whether seeing certain star athletes get the vaccine would improve their own willingness to get one.

The survey found that 40% of people say they are “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to take the vaccine when it first becomes available. Only 16% of those surveyed said that seeing famous people take it would make them likelier to take it.

But when given a long list of famous athletes, Michael Jordan came out on top, with 25% of all respondents saying that seeing him get the vaccine would make them likelier to get it.

LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Tom Brady were all virtually just as popular, with 24% each. Jordan was even more popular with men (30%), and Jordan, Brady, and Steph Curry were all particularly popular with the 35-49 age demographic (35% each).

Former basketball superstar Michael Jordan speaks during a press conference ahead of NBA basketball game between Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus))
Former basketball superstar Michael Jordan speaks during a press conference ahead of NBA basketball game between Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus))

Most importantly, LeBron James was by far the most popular choice with African-Americans: 39% of that group said they would be more likely to get the vaccine if they saw James get it. That same group had the highest portion say they are not likely to get the vaccine when it first becomes available: 49%.

At least based on this data, James could change a significant number of minds if he were to take the vaccine early.

And that could happen: ESPN reported last week that the NBA is in talks to be the first U.S. pro league to conduct widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to all its players and coaches.

The other current and former athletes on the Harris Poll list included Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Simone Biles, Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Rodgers, Tim Tebow, Patrick Mahomes, Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, Conor McGregor, Christiano Ronaldo, Buster Posey, Danica Patrick, and Mike Trout.

Meanwhile, if you ask some business experts, the biggest potential influencer group in urging Americans to take the vaccine will be employers, not the government or any celebrities.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and specializes in sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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