Former Utah Jazz legend John Stockton endorsed Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

The famously reserved Hall of Fame point guard recently emerged from a quiet retirement to start a podcast ”Voices for Medical Freedom,” after he spoke out against public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, at times stirring up controversy.

Now, Stockton is backing Staggs in the race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney in Utah. Stockton said Staggs resisted pandemic restrictions as mayor.

“In 2020, we saw how dangerous weak leaders can be. Among so many other things, businesses were forced to close indefinitely, and children were forced to wear masks,” Stockton said in a statement provided by the Staggs campaign.

“This is unacceptable, and very few spoke up and said No. This is why I am proud to endorse one who did. Trent Staggs stood up to lockdowns and vaccine mandates when few were willing. We need more like him in the Senate. We need more like him in our country, willing to stand alone and protect individual liberty.”

Donald Trump endorses Trent Staggs for U.S. Senate

During his Senate campaign, Staggs has often referred to his COVID-19 response as evidence he is willing to take on the “establishment.”

In March 2020, Staggs instructed Riverton’s chief of police not to enforce Salt Lake County’s limit on public gatherings to 10 people or less with a penalty of up to “6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine” for violators.

A few months later, as candidate for Salt Lake County mayor, Staggs committed to also not enforce a mask mandate. He said at the time he would encourage city residents to wear a mask but called a mandate “unenforceable” and said the county lacked a plan to address the economic effect of closures and had failed to provide COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted one.

Staggs lost his mayoral bid to incumbent Mayor Jenny Wilson. But he continued to oppose mask mandates throughout 2021 and 2022 on the grounds that vaccines were readily available. He also opposed vaccine mandates, including in the work place.

“I’m grateful to have John’s support,” Staggs told the Deseret News in a statement. “He’s a legend on the court and an even greater man off. I’m honored to have him in my corner!”

Stockton, who endorsed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a prominent vaccine skeptic — for president, has been vocal about his views on the COVID-19 response, including by starring in a documentary episode about pandemic-era lockdowns. Stockton recently spoke to the Deseret News about his anti-vaccine stance and the reasons behind his beliefs.

Profile: Finding John Stockton

Since becoming the first candidate to officially announce his intention to run against Romney in May 2023, Staggs has worked to carve out a lane as the most Donald Trump-aligned candidate, receiving the endorsement of Trump surrogates like former Republican presidential nominee Vivek Ramaswamy, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake.

On April 27, just hours before the state GOP nominating convention, Staggs received the much sought for endorsement of former President Trump by means of a Truth Social post. Staggs went on to win the convention with nearly 70% of the vote to become the official Republican convention nominee.

Staggs will appear on the GOP primary ballot alongside 3rd District Congressman John Curtis, who came in second at the convention with 30% of the vote, former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and Moxie Pest Control CEO Jason Walton.

Curtis carries some fundraising momentum ahead of the June 25 primary, as Wilson and Walton have poured millions into their respective campaigns and Staggs tries to capitalize on his endorsements to compete with his opponents’ fundraising.

The GOP nominee who emerges from the primary will face off against the nominees from other registered political parties in the Nov. 5 general election.

The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Utah is mountaineer Caroline Gleich.

Trent Staggs sweeps Utah GOP convention after Trump endorsement to replace Sen. Mitt Romney