The MRC's Sports Squad of COVID Fearmongerers and Misinformers
Media Research Center sports bloggers Jay Maxson and John Simmons spent much of 2022 peddling misinformation, fear, and outright lies about COVID vaccines, as well as continuing to champion selfish athletes who won't get vaccinated.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center's sports bloggers, John Simmons and the mysterious Jay Maxson, have been prolific misleaders about COVID and its vaccines and justifying the selfishness of sports stars who refuse to get vaccinated even though that refusal hurts their team.
ConWebWatch has written before about the WorldNetDaily-ization of the MRC, and Maxson fully embodied the current version of that with his (or her) anti-vaccine activism. But an April 21 post by Maxson -- also published at MRCTV -- is so completely based in a discredited falsehood that it really should have appeared at WND, spreader of fake news about COVID and its vaccines. Maxson began:
The risk of death from COVID among young adult athletes is so rare that it is considered inconsequential. On the other hand, the number of young adult athletes suffering and dying from COVID vaccinations and booster shots is mounting.
The idea that hundreds of athletes are dropping dead because of COVID vaccines was discredited well before Maxson took up the conspiracy baton. That said, Maxson's sources don't inspire confidence either. Good Sciencing is an anonymously run website (remember that the MRC purports to hate anonymous sources) and OAN is not known for accurate and unbiased reporting about, well, anything.
Note that Maxson doesn't even link to the OAN website for this story; the OAN link goes to an article at something called Oval Media, which is apparently based in Germany, and an article written by notorious anti-vaxxer quack Dr. Joseph Mercola. The other two links go to articles at Children's Health Defense, run by another notorious anti-vaxxer, Robert Kennedy Jr.
Maxson then wrote: "Earlier this month, 15 vaccinated tennis players dropped out of the Miami Open due to adverse vaccination reactions. Among them were Jannik Sinner (appearing in above photo), ranked 12th in the world, and Paula Badosa." In fact, neither Sinner, Badosa nor any of the others who withdrew from the Miami Open cited the vaccine as a reason: "Official tournament records cite injuries and illnesses, which are backed up by multiple news reports and social media accounts from the players themselves."
Maxson then cited examples of actual athletes who claimed to have had adverse reactions to the vaccine, which is the one section of the post that has some basis in reality; for instance, "Kyle Warner, a 29-year-old professional mountain biker, received his second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 shot last June and suffered a reaction so severe that he spent months in bed." But according to PolitiFact, Warner's doctor did confirm that he suffered myocarditis after receiving a vaccine but that "a follow up cardiac MRI and stress test were normal."
Despite evidence contrary to the left-wing narrative, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, are discounting the seriousness of these problems.
Or perhaps it's not actually true and most sentient people don't immerse themselves in the discredited conspiracy-theory websites that Maxson is apparently marinated in.
Still defending Djokovic's anti-vaxxer stance
Last fall and earlier this year, sports blogger John Simmons served as a cheerleader for tennis star Novak Djokovic for being a selfish jerk in refusing to get the COVID vaccine, portraying him as a victim because he was blocked from entering major tennis tournaments because of that. Simmons has continued to be a cheerleader for Djokovic's selfishness. In a March 17 post, Simmons gushed that Djokovic "has refused to cave to political pressure" on getting vaccinated" and that he got to play in the French Open, letting him laughably claim that "I was never against vaccination," leaving it uncommented that his refusing to get a COVID vaccine demonstrates beyond a doubt that he is, in fact, against vaccines.
In a July 11 post, Simmons complained that a tennis writer called Djokovic an "anti-vax posterboy" -- which Simmons even more laughably insisted "couldn’t be further from the truth" based on Djokovic saying once that "he had received vaccines as a child -- then cheered that Djokovic's wife ran to her husband's defense by retorting that "He simply responded what HIS body choice is." Simmons concluded by declaring:
Novak is not planning on playing in the U.S. Open because of his vaccination status, but he doesn’t need to. He’s already proven he’s won of the greatest men’s tennis players of all time, and a man of strong convictions. Anything else he accomplishes in his career is simply an addition to an already glittering legacy.
Yet the MRC manufactured drama about Djokovic playing in the U.S. Open anyway. Fellow sports blogger Jay Maxson -- who wrote a post earlier this year filled with falsehoods about athletes purportedly dying because of the COVID vaccine, a post that remains live and uncorrected at this writing -- huffed in a July 12 post: "It’s a mad, mad, mad sports world, to say the least! Tennis great Novak Djokovic can’t even enter the United States because he is not vaccinated, but a cyclist from Luxembourg who tested positive for COVID has won a stage of the Tour de France." In fact, doctors tested the cyclist, Bob Jungels, and found that his viral load was low enough that it was unlikely he was infectious.
Even though -- again -- Djokovic was already not planning to play in the U.S. Open, Simmons manufactured some victimhood for him in a July 21 post:
The Biden Administration’s COVID travel restriction policy preventing unvaccinated foreigners from entering the United States is so darn selective it smells to high heaven. Immigration officials are allowing unvaccinated illegal aliens to cross our border, but the greatest active tennis player in the world -- Serbia’s unvaccinated Novak Djokovic -- is barred from our country.
Simmons quoted from the petition, which stated, "The vaccine is NOT an extra line of defense. Natural immunity is stronger." If Simmons had bothered to fact-check the statement, he would find that it's false; in fact, research has found that the best protection is a combination of "natural immunity" (read: a previous infection) plus a vaccine.
Simmons continued his manufactured U.S. Open drama in an Aug. 12 post:
The U.S. government is serving up some nonsense to tennis star Novak Djokovic.
Remember: Djokovic already said he wasn't planning to take part.
Simmons devoted an Aug. 15 post to touting former tennis great John McEnroe criticizing the vaccine regulations (despite, again, Djokovic already saying he wasn't planning to take part), adding: "The all-time great further said that a world-class athlete like Djokovic is incredibly particular about what he puts in his body and that he is in peak health, which should render his vaccination status as irrelevant. You’re not the only one who feels that way, McEnroe."
Just before the U.S. Open started, Simmons wrote an Aug. 25 post declaring what everyone (including himself) knew weeks earlier, that Djokovic would not be playing:
It’s official: Novak Djokovic will not be playing in the U.S. Open, the final tournament in tennis’ Grand Slam circuit.
Buying into conspiracy theories is hardly a "shining example of conviction," John.
Summer of vaccine-bashing
The MRC's sports bloggers kept up their factually deficient anti-vaccine stances over the summer and cheered athletes who selfishly refused to get one. In a July 29 post, John Simmons cheered the selfishness of a Boston Red Sox pitcher who may have cost his team a win because he refused to get vaccinated and, thus, could not join his team when they played in Toronto because Canada requires visitors to be vaccinated:
Last night, the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, thanks to a walk-off single by first baseman Valdimir Guerrero Jr in the bottom of the ninth. The close loss itself was frustrating for Sox fans and media, but Boston sports reporters are furious at the outcome for another reason.
Simmons offered no valid reason why it's some sort of bold and principled stance for Houck to refuse to get vaccinated, especially given that his teammates did the responsible thing and got vaccinated without any apparent ill effects-- and, no "personal freedom" is not an excuse, especially when Simmons attacks other athletes who express their personal freedom via political views (that he opposes) that have no effect whatsoever on what happens on the field or court.
Simmons defended another selfish baseball player who couldn't play in Toronto in a July 14 post:
The Philadelphia Phillies will conclude their two-game series in Toronto against the Blue Jays tonight, but they've done so without four of their top players. Catcher J.T. Realmuto is one of them, but he doesn't regret his decision to remain unvaccinated.
Again, Simmons cited no evidence that any other responsibly vaccinated Phillies player has suffered any ill effects from the vaccine, which undercuts any argument Realmuto is making.
Simmons spent an Aug. 31 post whining that the NBA will keep some COVID testing protocols:
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is run by idiots.
By contrast, Simmons cheered in a Sept. 21 post that "Reports suggest that Canada will likely drop its vaccine requirements for people entering the country by the end of the month. Should this become official, it will undoubtedly be great news for unvaccinated athletes that, to this point, have been prevented from playing games in Canada."
Maxson also worked to portray unvaccinated athletes as victims instead of the selfish players they are. He (or she) complained in a May 15 post that NBA star Kyrie Irving is paying the price for his selfishness:
Unvaccinated and politically incorrect, Brooklyn Nets basketball star Kyrie Irving is on the verge of losing his lucrative Nike contract. ESPN reported that Nike is unlikely to extend Irving’s signature shoe deal beyond the 2022-23 season due to “uncertainties surrounding his NBA future.” Also, the Nets are non-committal on giving the seven-time all-star a long-term contract.
Maxson unsurprisingly didn't mention that nearly one in five Americans who have contracted COVID have lingering symptoms for weeks or months -- known as long COVID -- or that vaccines can reduce the risk of long COVID.
Another consequence of being unvaccinated is people making less-than- charitable remarks about it, and Maxson was upset in an Aug. 8 post when NFL star Aaron Rodgers -- whom Maxson defended after he lied to American about his vaccination status -- got humorously called out for it to his face:
It’s been a year since Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the world he had been inoculated but not vaccinated against COVID. When he contracted the coronavirus in November, media ganged up on him en masse and cancelled him. Based on Rodgers’ remarks today he’s still smarting from that attack and is in no joking mood about the firestorm that surrounded him last year.
Note how Maxson downplayed the fact that Rodgers lied to people about his vaccination status with the dishonest claim that he was :"inoculated," which he wasn't. Maxson simply repeated that "Rodgers said he was allergic to the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and he did not trust the Johnson & Johnson vaccine either" -- though no proof was ever offered to support his claim. Maxson then touted how Rodgers owned the libs by [checks notes] catching COVID:
Rodgers got the last laugh on the media cancel mob. He contracted the coronavirus in November, missed a game, but eventually won the NFL’s 2021 Most Valuable Player award. The Packers won their division and made the playoffs, disproving he was an unvaccinated super-spreader.
Of course, if Rodgers had gotten properly vaccinated, there's a good chance he would not have caught COVID and he wouldn't have missed a game.
Maxson served up more vaccine misinformation in an Aug. 23 post:
The YES Network broadcasts New York Yankees baseball games, but its public brand looks like a big fat NOOOOOO. This is the television outfit which has confined broadcaster and Yankees’ legend Paul O’Neill to his Ohio home since COVID hit 2 1⁄2 years ago. He’s not vaccinated, and that’s still considered a problem by his neanderthal employer.
In fact, while the previous generation of COVID vaccines offered less protection from catching COVID as the virus mutated into the Omicron variant, they do reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, even among those who have previously caught COVID -- hardly "unreliable." And the new generation of vaccines should do a better job of catching the Omicron variant.
Then again, Maxson is a proven COVID vaccine misinformer and has amply demonstrated that he (or she) shouldn't be trusted on medical issues and should perhaps stick to ranting about sports.
Meanwhile, a Sept. 10 post by Simmons helped Irving play victim because no team would give him a long-term contract over his anti-vaxx selfishness:
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving claimed that he turned down a massive contract extension before the 2021-22 season in large part to remain unvaccinated.
Simmons whined in an Oct. 7 post:
Newly surfaced emails reveal that the Biden administration was plotting to intentionally "leverage" high school athletics and extracurricular activities as tools to all but force Pennsylvania students to get the COVID vaccine during the 2021-22 school year.
Imagine being a right-wing activist who feels he must mislead and fearmonger about vaccines, ignoring science solely because his political ideology dictates that he must. That's who Simmons and Maxson are.