Sullivan: Beasley's anti-vaccine rationale way off the mark

Jerry Sullivan

I'd like to give Cole Beasley the benefit of the doubt, I really would. The Bills’ receiver is clearly a man of deeply held convictions, willing to speak his mind and wade into the cesspool of modern social media.

We criticize our athletes for failing to speak out on the tougher issues, for hiding behind agents and PR people and refusing to saying anything sincere or remotely controversial.

Well, one thing you have to say about Beasley is he’s not afraid to put himself out there. The same impulse that allows a little wideout to run across the middle makes him unafraid to take a polarizing stand on a hot issue. You have to respect the guy for that much.

Last June, after the George Floyd killing, Beasley sent out an emotional tweet, saying he was embarrassed as a father of three bi-racial children who had “never had to go through the hardships that black people endure every day in this country.”

“For far too long in my life, I have looked the other way,” Beasley said in his tweet, which was liked by more than 60,000 people on Twitter.

It was a refreshing take in a country where there’s a raging battle over critical race theory and some people can’t accept that being white might have been a slight advantage over the course of American history.

People are complicated. They have layers. Opinions evolve. Some day, Beasley might have a more evolved understanding of the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Beasley refuses to get vaccinated, despite the urging of the NFL, team management, national leaders and rational people who choose to trust science over skepticism and doubt.

Over the last couple weeks, Beasley has gone on Twitter to announce that he has no intentions of taking the vaccine. He said he’s willing to retire if necessary and ripped the NFL Players Association for agreeing to protocols that place tougher restrictions on unvaccinated players.

Beasley called the union “a joke.” He asked “Did we vote on this?” (Team reps worked with the league on the policy, as they do on most issues). He said the odds of him playing for 10 years in the NFL are lower than the chances of a person who has been vaccinated being reinfected with COVID-19.

It got even loonier. Beasley, responding to a tweet about the roughly 600,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19, said, “Let me know when you’ve counted all 600,000 and determined the cause of death for each one of them. It isn’t research if someone just told you so.”

Oh, there was this Twitter gem: “Everybody is so all in on science now more than I have ever seen. What happened to God’s will?”

All right, that’s where he lost me. Count all the dead? If anything, the number of COVID deaths around the world has been underreported. Beasley’s comment was an affront to anyone who lost a loved one during the pandemic.

The people who worked in the over-run hospitals in New York City, Brazil, Italy and India, the despairing doctors and nurses who watched people die without their loved ones present — yeah, they’d tell you the deaths were all too real. They don’t need any more research to confirm the catastrophe.

Playing science off against “God’s will” is truly over the edge. Science is progress. Is it God’s will to visit plague and death on the human race until scientists get around to finding answers? I’m surprised Cole didn’t toss off the obligatory tweet about how “everything happens for a reason.”

Science isn’t perfect. The vaccines aren’t perfect. There have been rare, usually minor, cases of heart ailments in vaccinated young people. But the overwhelming majority of the evidence says that vaccines work. That’s why governments in other countries are desperate to get them.

According to a recent Associated Press study, nearly all the current deaths in the country are among the unvaccinated. The data suggests that the deaths would be near zero if everyone had the shot. And experts say the unvaccinated will be at higher risk as the Delta variant surges.

Beasley certainly isn’t the only NFL player not getting vaccinated. As of a week ago, only three teams had more than 70% of their players vaccinated. Josh Allen hasn’t said if he’s gotten a shot. Awhile back, he said he needed to do more research.

What that means, I’m not sure. I trust scientists who have spent their lives studying infectious diseases. I guess a lot of NFL players don’t read the same news sites I do. The sad fact is that a lot of Americans don’t trust the media — and many of them bowed down to a president who called it the enemy of the people.

Beasley and the other skeptics are entitled to their opinion. It’s a free country. Everyone has the right to a dumb opinion. Mine is that people who don’t get the vaccine are fools.

It’s funny, where NFL players are concerned. Has any collection of people ever been more cavalier about what they put in their own bodies? I wonder if Beasley has ever questioned the rampant use of painkillers in football, or called random drug testing an infringement of his constitutional rights.

These are the same athletes who, almost to a man, tell you they “know what they signed up for” when asked about the risk of concussion and long-term brain damage from taking hits to the head on the football field. Some of the tweets make you wonder if Beasley has taken too many.

But these same brave athletic risk-takers require more “research” before putting their trust in a vaccine that will almost surely make them less susceptible to the disease, protect other people, and give their teams a better competitive chance within the NFL’s COVID protocols.

If anyone should be “all in on science,” it’s NFL players. Beasley said he’d “rather die living,” as if getting a vaccine shot is somehow an infringement on his lifestyle.

One of these days, he might look back and realize, once again, that he was looking at things entirely the wrong way.

Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at

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