The NFL has gone as far as it can to force players to get vaccinated against COVID-19, without explicitly requiring it. Players or team personnel who are not vaccinated will be subject to different individual protocols for the 2021 season than those who are vaccinated, but the memo the league issued to its member teams on Thursday went a step further, outlining more pronounced consequences. for possible outbreaks of the virus among unvaccinated Players.
The memo makes clear that the NFL does not intend to add a 19 week to the schedule, and if a game cannot be rescheduled within the 18 week framework and therefore must be canceled due to an outbreak of unvaccinated players, that club will lose the right game. With a cancellation, players on both sides would not receive their weekly salary.
This occurs when players show up to training ground amid America’s struggle with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant; Scientists have shown that vaccination is our best tool in curbing the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans. In a conference call Friday, Allen Sills, the league’s medical director, said that 80% of players have received at least one vaccination. But some prominent stars began to speak out against the new policies on social media: Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins tweeted, then deleted, that being in a position to hurt his team because he doesn’t want to get the vaccine made him “question my future in the NFL. “Edge running back Matthew Judon, who signed with the Patriots this offseason, expressed his disgust with the players’ union.
The stark divisions that exist in the US, which are often ignored or corrected in the context of team sports, will now be more apparent in the NFL locker rooms. The league’s new rule attempts to balance a person’s bodily autonomy with their role in contributing to the collective well-being, while protecting the pockets of the owners.
The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said the laws do not prevent an employer from requiring that all employees who physically enter a workplace be vaccinated, a step the NFL has not taken, as long as they offer reasonable accommodations. in accordance with disability and civil rights laws. -protections against discrimination. Unvaccinated players can still participate in their jobs this season, something the union worked to ensure was the case, but they are subject to the strictest protocols of the 2020 season, including daily testing, the use of masks required in the facilities and a mandatory quarantine afterward. a high-risk exposure to COVID-19 (none of which applies to fully vaccinated players). Players have known since June that these rules would be in effect.
New policies announced Thursday further raise the stakes by increasing the potential competitive disadvantage for teams with a high percentage of unvaccinated players, as well as introducing potential financial penalties for both players and clubs, who would also lose money on cancellation case and has to bear the rescheduling costs due to an outbreak among its unvaccinated players. This introduces the possibility for changing rooms to be divided on a theme that offers little room for compromise. (Perhaps that is why, up to this point, apparently few prominent NFL players have touted the merits of vaccination, despite the influence that cultural icons can have on promoting public health.)
In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis, the harmony of a sports team’s locker room certainly doesn’t rank high on the priority list. But at the same time, the debate that is raging among NFL players today is one that many of us face in our own communities. Using competitive disadvantage as an incentive to get vaccinated, of course, is not something that applies to most of our workplaces or occupations, certainly not to the same degree as in the NFL. The financial bets are also not in the same order, whether for the employer or the employee, in almost every other corporation in the US.
Some players may have been caught off guard by the NFL’s upping of their previous policies on the eve of training camp. And while vaccination status will not explicitly affect any player’s employment status, it will practically have a greater impact the less secure a player’s place on the team is, particularly for those on the roster bubble. The loss of salary for both teams in case of cancellation of the game also introduces some injustice: all players lose their salary in case of cancellation, even if it was not caused by their team. There can also be infections and outbreaks among vaccinated people. The odds of a cancellation due to an outbreak in a team with more than 80% of its players vaccinated (a threshold that, according to the league, has been crossed by more than half of its teams) are certainly lower, particularly because the players vaccinated do not need to be quarantined. after a high-risk exposure to COVID-19. But the specific point in the memo that states that no team player will be paid in the event of cancellation due to a COVID-19 outbreak does not specify that the outbreak must be between unvaccinated players, unlike the other points related to the costs of confiscation and reprogramming.
Like almost everything the NFL does, principles may play a role, but money is the controlling factor. And just like in 2020, the NFL is determined not to allow COVID-19 to disrupt its season. Regardless, however, and assuming the NFL met its bargaining obligations to the players union, these new policies represent the most prominent sports league in the US taking steps to mandate vaccination.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.