NFL Throws Penalty Flag On Unvaccinated Players

Everyone should be able to agree that getting vaccinated is an individual choice. However, it is a choice that comes with consequences, no matter what you decide.

It is becoming apparent that thanks to the vaccines, COVID-19 has become significantly less of a threat to health over time. In the United Kingdom, the data clearly shows that the “delta variant” is infectious, but thanks to vaccination, it is no longer nearly as deadly.

The current CDC numbers place the weekly average of new deaths due to COVID at 211. While this has gotten slightly higher due to all the new infections, we are seeing NOWHERE near the level of death that we once did at the height of the pandemic. To put that number of deaths into context, this year the National Safety Council predicted that 415 people would die in car accidents over Memorial Day weekend in 2021, after looking at the data from previous years (excluding 2020). Bottom line? Pandemic over.

Which makes the announcement from the NFL regarding this upcoming season’s new COVID-19 policy more than a little surprising. Apparently, the NFL will still use a carrot to convince players to get vaccinated – but they are going to make the stick hurt.

Unvaccinated players will be subject to severe protocols during training camp and the regular season, including daily testing, mask-wearing and travel restrictions. Thursday’s memo made it clear that unvaccinated players could, in theory, be responsible for the losses of games and paychecks as well.”

Yes, you’re reading that right. If a team has enough COVID cases to postpone a game, they may not be allowed to make it up, which would mean forfeiting the game – and their salaries.

If the forfeit occurs, players from both teams will lose their game checks. The team that suffered the outbreak would be responsible for any shortfall in the league’s revenue-sharing pool and also would be credited with a loss for the purposes of playoff seeding, with the opposing team credited with a win.”

And yes, this was agreed to by both the NFL and the players’ union.

As you can guess, this is not sitting well with a lot of NFL players. Vaccine hesitancy – despite what Washington state governor Jay Inslee would have you think, that it’s all these “Trump voters” who are the unvaccinated COVID superspreaders – is quite strong within the black community. And among NFL players, that same hesitancy exists. It can’t be chalked up to lack of opportunity or access, or because they are Trump voters. For whatever reason, some players simply don’t want to be vaccinated. That decision may cost them – AND their team. Some are speaking out, and then deleting their comments.

Among players, there were a lot of tweets sent that were deleted, and one player even protected his entire account after making some comments.

The NFL is a private organization, which means that they can set their own rules and social justice decisions, so long as the players’ union has agreed to them. Individual players, therefore, have a choice to make. No choice is made in a vacuum, though. While some players may say that they wouldn’t blame a teammate who didn’t get vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that all of their teammates will be happy if they end up forfeiting their paychecks. Not to mention the reaction from the fan base, which is the source of the team’s revenue. With fans back in the stands for 2021, do teams really want to risk angering the base by forfeiting games?

What has happened here is that the NFL has set up an extremely effective peer pressure campaign to get vaccinated. Even if you believe that everyone who can, should get the COVID vaccination, this seems to be a really punitive way to coerce players into getting their shots. I guess we will be finding out very soon just how much some players are willing to gamble.

Featured image: NFL Football by QuinceCreative via Pixabay, cropped and modified, Pixabay license

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