A number of current and former professional athletes, including former Utah Jazz star John Stockton, announced Wednesday they’ll back the independent presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

Tuesday’s announcement on Fox News, then publicized by Kennedy’s American Values 2024 PAC, listed Stockton alongside New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former NFL star Ken Ruettgers, surfer Kelly Slater and mountain biker Kyle Warner.

Each of the endorsers have also been publicly skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines, including Stockton, whose season basketball tickets at his alma mater, Gonzaga University, were revoked after Stockton refused to receive a vaccine and wear a mask at games.

“I believe Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was put on this planet for this exact moment in time,” Stockton said in a statement. 

RFK Jr.’s big gamble

Stockton cited Kennedy’s track record of “standing up” against “the corruption displayed by big money, big tech (and) big pharma.” 

Stockton continued: “He is a dynamic leader with the skill, the intelligence, and the toughness, as well as the physical and mental stamina required to get this nation back on track. There is no better man for the job.”

Kennedy, a former environmental lawyer, has spent much of his career advocating for individual choice in health and raising skepticism about vaccines, especially for children. His organization, Children’s Health Defense, has published hundreds of stories on its website skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccines, and Kennedy once called them “the deadliest vaccine ever made.”

The two mRNA vaccines were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies consistently show that the vaccines are effective in preventing serious or fatal cases of COVID-19, and the risk of adverse effects is minimal. The American Heart Association has said the COVID-19 vaccine is linked to “rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, types of heart inflammation.”

But Rodgers, perhaps the NFL’s most outspoken critic of the league’s pandemic protocols, has also questioned the COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness and suggested they could cause fertility issues. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, an early study of 2,000 couples trying to conceive found the vaccine did not affect fertility but noted some impact on fertility from recent COVID-19 infection.

Rodgers faced criticism during the 2021 season when he told reporters he had been “immunized” in compliance with the NFL’s vaccine policy, only to later clarify he’d gone through an “immunization process through a holistic doctor.” 

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Ruettgers, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Packers, organized a press conference with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in 2021 to publicize potential adverse effects of the vaccines. 

Slater, one of the most decorated professional surfers in history, was barred from participating in the 2022 world championships in Australia after he refused to get the vaccine. 

And Warner, a professional mountain biker, claims the COVID-19 vaccine had serious adverse effects on his health. 

Kennedy announced his candidacy as a Democrat earlier this year, but he switched to an independent campaign last month. In his efforts to appeal to a broader base, Kennedy has seemed to soften his public language about vaccines, attempting to walk back previous statements that “no vaccine” is safe and effective.

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