The NFL issued some updates on its coronavirus protocols and penalties in July. The league said it would not extend the season to accommodate COVID-19 outbreaks on a team among unvaccinated players, which translates into a forfeit and loss for the team. The canceled game will also mean that players on both sides will not get paid, and the responsible team will cover the incurred expenses of the unplayed game. The league may issue additional punishments as well.
This is a marked difference from last season, but vaccinations were not available then. As the preseason ends, over 93% of players in the league had at least one shot, which is up from 68% at the beginning of training camp.
Despite the penalties and arduous protocols for the unvaccinated, players like Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, and Cole Beasley still refuse to get vaccinated. Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said that vaccination status was considered when cutting players for the 53-man roster. Still, the team in the bottom five in vaccination rates walked back that statement a day later as the players’ association launched a probe.
Other team executives also have made similar statements, despite it being illegal to use vaccination status as the reason for cutting players. The biggest news in teams trimming their rosters to 53 players was the Patriots cutting of Cam Newton in favor of a promising rookie. Still, they said it had nothing to do with Newton missing a preseason game and five days of practice because of protocols for unvaccinated players who leave camp.
The NFL did announce that 68 players and staff have tested positive after nearly 7,200 tests between August 1-21. It also pointed out that the rate of positive tests was seven times higher among unvaccinated players.
Leading in the wrong direction
Much has been written and said about the new social activism among football players. Yet here are some of the league’s leading players choosing not to get their shots, thus essentially aligning themselves to be on the wrong side of history. Choices about medical care and treatment are certainly a personal and private matter. Still, one wonders what well-paid and highly scrutinized professional athletes are thinking if they are willing to potentially sacrifice the team’s success and perhaps their career because they refuse to vaccinate against a deadly and contagious virus.
Will they get cut?
Players get officially or unofficially black-listed for having bad attitudes, legal troubles outside of sports and kneeling during the national anthem. While it is early in the season, players are likely mistaken if they do not think that vaccination status will not play into the personnel decisions made behind closed doors, particularly if it risks sabotaging a team’s season.