Jazz legend John Stockton sues Washington AG for prohibiting COVID misinformation

The Hall of Fame point guard has teamed up with a nonprofit affiliated with presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the lawsuit.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Karl Malone and John Stockton at the NBA All-Star game in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Washington attorney general and the executive director of the Washington Medical Commission, arguing that the state’s policy of disciplining doctors who spread COVID misinformation is unconstitutional for First Amendment reasons.

Stockton is the lead plaintiff in the suit, along with two retired doctors who were sanctioned in the state. The Children’s Health Defense nonprofit helmed by presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is also a plaintiff; Kennedy is listed as one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The suit alleges that the doctors in question — two of approximately 60 physicians the Washington Medical Commission has “investigated, prosecuted, and/or sanctioned,” the suit says — were harmed by the decision of the commission to charge them with professional misconduct, in that they were no longer able to post opinion columns spreading the misinformation for the Lewiston Tribune and the AmericanThinker.com website.

The policy of the Washington Medical Commission, as of 2021, is to prohibit public misinformation. “COVID-19 is a disease process like other disease processes, and as such, treatment and advice provided by physicians and physician assistants will be assessed in the same manner as any other disease process,” the commission wrote when announcing its position. “Treatments and recommendations regarding this disease that fall below standard of care as established by medical experts, federal authorities and legitimate medical research are potentially subject to disciplinary action.”

Stockton’s role in the suit comes as an allegedly harmed party: He argues that as a result of the medical commission’s decisions, he cannot “hear the public soapbox speech of Washington licensed physicians who disagree with the mainstream Covid narrative.”

The suit describes the former point guard’s legal standing as a life-long Spokane resident, noting that “except for an annual work-related relocation, he has spent his entire life in Spokane.” He’s also characterized in the suit as “a well-regarded Gonzaga basketball player,” who “followed that up with a 19-year NBA career as a point guard.” It also notes that “although he retired more than 20 years ago, many of his NBA records still stand, including the most season assists and steals.” The lawsuit does not mention the Utah Jazz.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the policy violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment, as well as an injunction on the policy. They also seek attorneys fees and “other such further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

Known during his Jazz career as a relatively quiet voice, Stockton has been outspoken on various public issues since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. In 2021, Stockton spoke on an anti-vaccine video series, he was also suspended from going to Gonzaga basketball games for refusing to wear a mask. Later, in 2022, he wrote a letter to a federal judge in support of a Kaysville woman who pleaded guilty to a minor role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

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