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Abdul-Jabbar doubles down on criticism of unvaccinated NBA players, wants them kicked out: 'I don't think that they are behaving like ... good citizens'

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NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (BET2020/Getty Images for BET NETWORKS)

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doubled down on his position that unvaccinated NBA players should be kicked off their teams, telling CNN on Monday those players need to be "disciplined."

Over the weekend, Abdul-Jabbar told Rolling Stone that "the NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team."

"There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research," he said.

Interviewed by CNN host Don Lemon about his comments, Abdul-Jabbar accused those who refuse to get vaccinated of COVID-19 of failing to be "good citizens."

"I don't think that they are behaving like good teammates or good citizens. This is a war that we're involved in. And masks and vaccines — they are the weapons that we use to fight this war," he said.

His comments follow a report from Rolling Stone on several vaccine-hesitant NBA players. The report identified star Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving as vaccine-skeptical, calling attention to his social media posts.

Irving was not physically present with his teammates on Monday during the Nets' annual media day, but he took questions from reporters remotely and declined to say whether he's been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I'm a human being first," Irving said. "Obviously living in this public sphere, it's just a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie and I think I just would love to just keep that private and handle it the right way, with my team and go forward together with the plan."

Abdul-Jabbar refused to "accept" Irving's position and accused him of "hiding behind procedure."

"Either you understand what's going on and you're going to do the right thing, or you don't understand what's going on and you're going to continue to create all this confusion with your stance," he told Lemon.

The NBA says it cannot mandate vaccines for players without approval from the players' union. Irving is the union's vice president. According to a report, about 90% of NBA players are currently vaccinated against COVID-19.

"A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with the Players Association. The NBA has made these proposals but the players' union has rejected any vaccination requirement," an NBA spokesman told CBS News Tuesday.

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