The NFL broke news this week, removing almost all restrictions for players that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and placing severe restrictions on players that have not received the vaccine.
Anyone that closely follows the NFL knew this was coming — there was always going to be one set of rules for players that receive the vaccine and one set for players who made the personal choice to opt-out. Sports leagues around the country are incentivized to have as many players as possible vaccinated. The NFL, MLB, and NHL have all eased restrictions for teams that meet a certain threshold of vaccinated team members and players. It’s become a competitive advantage for teams to incentivize players to receive the COVID-19 shot.
Just this month, the head coach of the Washington Football Team — Ron Rivera — brought in a “vaccine expert” to speak with his players about the vaccine and to answer any questions they may have.
“We’re trying to gather as much information, allow the players to get as much information so they can make a choice and make a decision,” Rivera told reporters.. “ … She was outstanding. Our players were engaged and asked a lot of good questions, and off of that we had several guys that are getting vaccinated or have gotten vaccinated because of that.”
In May, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the quiet part out loud, telling the “One Bills Live” podcast it would be an advantage for the team to cut an unvaccinated player if it meant being able to relax restrictions.
“We’re laughing, but these meetings (last season) were not as productive as before,” Beane said. “You guys saw it in the field house — sometimes we’d have three to four meetings going on, and sometimes you’re talking over each other. But it was the only way to pull it off and be socially distanced. So it would be an advantage to cut a player and fall under that umbrella.”
“If you have X percentage of your players and staff vaccinated, you can live normal, let’s just call it — back to the old days,” Beane elaborated.
“If you don’t, it’s going to look more like last year … I hope that, if those are the rules, we’ll be able to get enough people vaccinated and not have to deal with all the headaches from a year ago.”
And while Bean’s comments warranted a call from the league, the NFL’s announcement on Wednesday points to his thoughts being spot on.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols for training camp and the 2021 preseason.
For vaccinated players, masks and daily testing will no longer be required, travel restrictions have been lifted, they will be allowed to eat in the cafeteria with other vaccinated individuals, and no restrictions will be placed on social/media/marketing/sponsorship opportunities, among other things.
For those that have not received the vaccine, life will be a little more difficult.
COVID-19 testing will be required every day, masks must be worn when at the team facilities and while traveling, they may not use the sauna/steam room, leaving the team hotel to eat at restaurants is prohibited, and no social/media/marketing/sponsorship activities will be permitted.
The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols for 2021 training camp and preseason, per source.
How different will life by for vaccinated and unvaccinated players? From the memo that just went to clubs: pic.twitter.com/8yMPW0JBWZ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 16, 2021
While the league is not “mandating” the vaccine, the message from the NFL and NFLPA is clear — get the vaccine or your life is going to be painfully uncomfortable moving forward.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.