Stockton, whose No. 12 jersey is retired by the school, told the newspaper that he was informed of the decision by Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford. Stockton described the conversation as “congenial” but “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 told the newspaper. “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 made public his views on the COVID-19 vaccine in a documentary titled “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed” that was released last June.
Standiford declined to be quoted by the newspaper, instead issuing a statement that, “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 requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test 72 hours before attending a sporting event. According to the newspaper, the school became stricter with its mask mandate after suspending concessions at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Stockton told the newspaper that Gonzaga’s decision “stresses” his relationship with the school but indicated it can be repaired over time.
“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,” he told the newspaper.
Top-ranked Gonzaga has five more home games left this season. Stockton told the newspaper that when the mask mandate changes, “tickets will be reoffered.”
Stockton, 59, starred at Gonzaga from 1980-84. He is still the school’s all-time leader in steals (262) and steals per game (2.4). He was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 after 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz in which he was a 10-time All-Star, and helping the U.S. men’s basketball team win two Olympic gold medals.