Sports, Americas, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

US National Football League cracks down on unvaccinated players

No vaccine mandate, but heavy penalty if unvaccinated cause cancellations

Andy Roesgen   | 23.07.2021
US National Football League cracks down on unvaccinated players

CHICAGO, US 

The US National Football League (NFL) announced new protocols Thursday that make unvaccinated players heavily responsible if games get a COVID cancellation.

The league put out a lengthy memorandum to all 32 teams making it clear that it will not be as forgiving of COVID outbreaks as it was in 2020.

The most eye-catching part of the memo read: "If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule and is cancelled due to an outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the teams, the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest."

An NFL team can earn upwards of $7 million in revenue from a single game.

In addition, the NFL said that if a team's unvaccinated COVID outbreak causes a game to be rescheduled, that team has to pay the travel expenses for the other team, and if rescheduling is not possible, both teams' players lose out on their weekly salary. The team that caused the cancellation also faces additional fines and penalties from the league.

The NFL is not mandating vaccines among its players, but the new memorandum makes it clear that unvaccinated players risk losing their jobs within their individual teams.

Last year, the league got creative to juggle multiple COVID outbreaks on teams, including rescheduling some games to the middle of the week, whereas the vast majority are played on Sundays. Players were also subject to time away from games in quarantine when they tested positive.

The new protocols allow a vaccinated player, if he tests positive for COVID, to return in two days' time, assuming he gets two negative COVID tests in a row. An unvaccinated player who gets COVID must sit out 10 days.

The league said in the memo that vaccines are safe and effective and that nearly 75% of all players are in the process of getting vaccinated.

But there have been a few holdouts, including a star wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, Cole Beasley. Last month, Beasley tweeted his disdain for the NFL's COVID protocols and suggested he would rather retire than take the vaccine. By late Thursday, he had not responded to the NFL's new outbreak policy, but another receiver on his team, Stefon Diggs, did.

Apparently applauding the new rules, Diggs wrote simply, "accountability...availability."

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