Alabama football coach Nick Saban is getting behind a state effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Saban has participated in a public service announcement that will air next week and will also feature SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley and former Auburn head coach-turned-U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
Saban, according to a recording of the PSA obtained by the Journal, says that fans and players both want full stadiums in the fall.
"Let's make sure we can safely make this happen by getting vaccinated," Saban is recorded saying. "Please get your COVID-19 vaccine. We want Bryant-Denny Stadium loud again this coming season -- and Roll Tide!"
In a statement released Friday afternoon, state health officials thanked Saban and other high-profile sports figures for their public encouragement of COVID-19 vaccinations.
"The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is very pleased that Coach Nick Saban and other notable sports figures, including Charles Barkley, are encouraging Alabamians to take COVID-19 vaccine," the statement read. "Alabamians have great respect for the opinions of these important leaders in the world of sports. ADPH appreciates this partnership, as we work together as one, to protect the health and well being of our state."
Saban also participated in a PSA last year about wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama has fully vaccinated 25% of its residents, which is among the lowest rates in the country.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has said that the plan is for Bryant-Denny Stadium to operate at full capacity this season.
Byrne told ESPN's Heather Dinich that he hasn't determined yet if there will be a vaccination requirement for fans, but he "would be surprised if there was a requirement."
"We're very hopeful that people will continue to get vaccinated and that the numbers reflect that as far as where COVID starts going," Byrne said. "But we also know how much college football and college sports means in the SEC, and we know that you listen to the medical experts, that the way we move forward is for people to get vaccinated, and we feel hopeful that the great majority of our fans will do so."
Sankey, who said he has been fully vaccinated, told Dinich on Monday that policies for fans -- including mask wearing and vaccinations -- will largely be based on state and local policies instead of sweeping leaguewide mandates.
"We do want to be clear about our messaging and encouraging vaccinations, because that will make these management issues much more clear," he said. "Those will be continuing points of dialogue and discussion."