Gobert apologizes for 'embarrassing, inexcusable' virus gaffe
LOS ANGELES, USA – Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert apologized Thursday, March 12, for potentially exposing people to the coronavirus, a day after news of his infection with COVID-19 prompted the NBA to abruptly suspend the season.
In a post on Instagram, the 27-year-old Frenchman said he had "no excuse" for disregarding safety warnings about coronavirus earlier this week.
Gobert had triggered scorn on social media on Monday after pointedly touching every microphone and voice recorder on a table in front of him at a media availability.
But Gobert's cavalier stunt took a serious turn on Wednesday after it emerged he had contracted COVID-19, moments before Utah's game with Oklahoma City.
ESPN later reported that Gobert had been similarly nonchalant about the coronavirus risks in the locker room, touching other players and their belongings.
A second Utah player, Donovan Mitchell, was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 earlier on Thursday.
A shamed Gobert meanwhile spoke Thursday of his embarrassment at his conduct.
"I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis, mostly fear anxiety and embarrassment," Gobert wrote on Instagram.
"The first and foremost thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered.
"At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously."
Gobert said he would now hope to educate others about the risks of infection.
"I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus," he said.
"I am under great care and will fully recover. I encourage everyone to take all of the steps to stay safe and healthy."
Teammate Mitchell meanwhile endorsed Gobert's message in a separate post on social media.
"Hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realise that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and the well being of those around them," Mitchell remarked.
Gobert's conduct continued to draw condemnation in the media on Thursday.
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said the Jazz player had behaved irresponsibly.
"I don't want anybody to attach malice or intent on the part of Rudy Gobert, but he was playing around, touching the microphones, recorders, all that stuff," Smith said.
"He needs to understand that it was incredibly irresponsible for him to play around like that.
"He didn't take it seriously. I assure you, everyone's taking it seriously now."
More than 1,300 people have tested positive for coronavirus across the United States while at least 38 people have died from the disease, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.