Hall of Famer John Stockton’s season tickets suspended over defiance of COVID-19 mask mandate, report says

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton from 1997, speaks at a news conference before a 20-year reunion ceremony for Utah Jazz team that reached the 1997 NBA Finals, before the start of their NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Rick Bowmer, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hall of Famer John Stockton said he is getting his home basketball season tickets suspended by his alma mater over his defiance of the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate, according to an interview with The Spokesman-Review.

Stockton holds a special and dark place in the hearts of many Houston sports fans, as his buzzer-beater ended the Houston Rockets’ season in the 1997 Western Conference Finals and sent the Utah Jazz, not the Rockets, to that year’s NBA Finals.

The point guard was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 after a stellar college career at Gonzaga before moving on to the NBA with the Jazz. Stockton still remains the NBA’s all-time steals and assists leader. He was a part of the legendary 1992 USA Olympic “Dream Team” and is one of only two jerseys retired by Gonzaga in the school’s men’s basketball history.

Now, Stockton says the school is suspending his season tickets over his refusal to wear a mask.

“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 in the interview. “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.”

Stockton told The Spokesman-Review the conversation he had with school officials was “congenial” but “not pleasant,” and that his relationship with the school isn’t permanently fractured, but is now strained.

“I think certainly it stresses (the relationship with Gonzaga). I’m pretty connected to the school,” Stockton said in the article. “I’ve been part of this campus since I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was just born a couple of 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.”

School officials contacted by The Spokesman-Review provided a statement about the school’s COVID-19 policies.

“Gonzaga University continues to work hard to implement and enforce the health and safety protocols mandated by the State and by University policy, including reinforcing the indoor masking requirement. Attendees at basketball games are required to wear face masks at all times,” the statement read. “We will not speak to specific actions taken with any specific individuals. We take enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety protocols seriously and will continue to evaluate how we can best mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 with appropriate measures. The recent decision to suspend concessions in McCarthey Athletic Center is an example of this approach.

“Gonzaga University places the highest priority on protecting the health and safety of students, employees, and the community.”

Gonzaga currently sits atop the AP’s Top 25 men’s basketball rankings with a 14-2 record. Stockton’s presence has been missing the past few Gonzaga home games, according to the report. He has been vocal about his opposition to vaccines and has shared his views as part of a documentary against vaccines.

“When the rule changes, then tickets will be reoffered,” Stockton said. “I don’t know what the right terminology is. When the rule changes.”

About the Author:

Born in Canada but raised in Houston, Howard joined KPRC 2 in 2021 after five years at ESPN. Before that, Howard was a reporter on Houston Rockets and Houston Astros game broadcasts. Among the events that Howard has covered on site: the NBA bubble and the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions for both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He's H-town proud!