NBA Hall of Famer and former Utah Jazz player John Stockton has had his season tickets suspended at his alma mater, Gonzaga, after refusing to comply with the school's mask mandate. Stockton told The Spokesman-Review that he was notified of the university's decision by Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford, saying that the conversation was "congenial" but also "not pleasant."
"Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," Stockton said. "And therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups – those weren't discussed, but from whatever it was higher up – they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets."
Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours to attend home athletic events, and requires masks to be worn inside, going as far as suspending the sales of food and drink at games as a way to enforce mask wearing.
"When asked if he'd contemplated wearing a mask to keep his season tickets, Stockton responded, 'Of course. You consider everything, every option when you're presented with something like that, and I considered it in great detail,'" The Spokesman-Review wrote.
The soonest Stockton would be allowed back at the school to watch games would be during the 2022-23 season.
"When the rule changes, then tickets will be reoffered," Stockton said. "I don't know what the right terminology is. When the rule changes."
While Stockton said the situation is "one impasse," he remains hopeful he can maintain a healthy relationship with his alma mater.
"There's probably a lot of different directions this can go, and I think time will tell on all of that," he said. "My focus is to maintain that relationship, as is theirs. They've made it very clear that we're important to each other and I don't think that's going to change. However, there are some absolute impasses that we're going to figure out."
"I've been around here a long time, so I don't expect things to linger, whatever they may be."
"I think certainly it stresses (the relationship with Gonzaga). I’m pretty connected to the school," Stockton said. "I've been part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was just born a couple blocks away and sneaking into the gym and selling programs to get into games since I was a small boy. So, it's strained but not broken, and I'm sure we'll get through it, but it's not without some conflict."
Stockton has been vocal against mask mandates and vaccine requirements, offering his views last June in a documentary titled, "COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed."
Speaking in regards to Gonzaga's vaccine mandate for students, Stockton said that "those children and kids their age, they have literally zero statistical risk of being harmed by the disease and they have significant statistical risk of being harmed by the side effects of the so-called vaccines."