Taylor Decker could have said nothing. He could have copped out.
“I’d rather not get into that right now.” Or simply, “No comment.”
Either of these old standbys would have been perfectly reasonable and acceptable answers when the Detroit Lions left tackle was asked Thursday if he had decided to change his mind and get vaccinated.
Instead, Decker made the right choice, which was the hard choice. He stood behind his decision to reverse course and get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I did get vaccinated,” Decker said, “and that’s all I’ll say on that topic.”
Of course, he was asked a follow-up question for more details.
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“Like I said, I just want to leave it at that cause it’s so polarizing,” he said. “So I just want to leave it at that. I did and that’s that.”
Polarizing? Decker nearly spun the NFL world off its axis in April when he, again, was honest and upfront about his choice to not get vaccinated. The Free Press article about his decision in April had more than 240 comments. Usually 50 comments is considered a lot.
Decker knew in April, as well as he knows now, that his decision was polarizing. But he didn’t cop out either time and stood by each decision.
“I did not get vaccinated and I’m not going to,” Decker said in April. “I’m just not going to speak to the reasons why. I have my reasons. I don’t know, that’s such a hot button topic, but me personally, I just don’t feel like it’s the best thing for me so I’m not going to do it.”
I can’t speak to Decker’s motivations. The cynic in all of us could assume that Decker and other NFL players have been incentivized to change their minds and get the vaccine. The rigorous rules for unvaccinated players restricts their freedom and could cost their teams to forfeit games in the event of an outbreak, in which case players on the forfeiting teams wouldn’t be paid.
We don’t know the reason behind Decker’s decision. All we know is that he changed his mind and was willing to say so publicly.
What that tells us, more than anything, is that Decker is a leader. Yes, he’s a captain, too. But anyone can be a captain. It’s a made up designation. Being a leader is different. It’s about doing the right thing, which often is the hard thing.
And Decker’s choice was the right choice. And it should be the choice for every other Lions player. Because just imagine if one player is responsible for an outbreak that leads to a forfeit and the loss of pay for the entire team. No player should want to run that risk.
For full disclosure, I’m vaccinated. I’ve had a hard time understanding why some people willfully resist the vaccine. I’ve heard many arguments, and most have been based on general mistrust and none are based on science. The most compelling I’ve heard, a concern about infertility, is a theoretical myth.
Yet I’ve always respected people’s decisions not to get vaccinated, because respecting a person’s choices means respecting a person, even if I disagree with them.
I respected Decker’s decision in April, just as I respect his decision now.
Actually, that’s wrong. I respect his decision a lot more now. Not because his decision aligns with my own, but because he was brave enough to change his mind and stand by a decision that will serve his team, and perhaps our entire community, best.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.