An assistant coach in the NFL might be facing his own ouster from the league after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
An ESPN report on Friday said Rick Dennison was out as Minnesota Vikings assistant coach for refusing the vaccine. But after the report went viral, the Vikings released a statement that somewhat hedged on the information, instead stating that talks with Dennison are ongoing and emphasizing that the coach does not have an “exemption” to refuse the jab.
“The Vikings continue to hold discussions with Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison regarding the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols for training camp and preseason games,” said a statement from the team. “At this time, Coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements of those protocols. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law.”
Sports Illustrated noted Friday that Dennison, per NFL rules, will have to get the vaccine or lose his position:
[U]nless he gets fully vaccinated — or receives an exemption — he will not regain his status as a Tier 1 staff member and will be unable to work directly with players on the field, in meeting rooms, or anywhere else. Essentially, it would be impossible for him to do his job as the team’s O-line coach. The Vikings presumably don’t want to have a virtual O-line coach if they don’t have to.
Numerous players in the league have spoken out about NFL protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players. Most notably, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley publicly pushed back against the set of rules for unvaccinated players.
Beasley noted in a lengthy Twitter message posted last month that many other less-established players feel the same way he does, but do not feel they are in a position to make a public challenge. “I feel for you, and I hope I’m doing my part to represent you guys,” he said.
“Hi, I’m Cole Beasley and I’m not vaccinated!” Beasley started the post. “I will be outside doing what I do. I’ll be in the public. If [you’re] scared of me then steer clear, or get vaccinated. Point. Blank. Period.”
“I may die of covid, but I’d rather die actually living,” he continued, adding, “I’d rather take my chances with Covid and build up my immunity that way. Eat better. Drink water. Exercise and do what I think is necessary to be a healthy individual. That is MY CHOICE based on MY experiences and what I think is best.”
“I’ll play for free this year to live life how I’ve lived it from day one,” Beasley said. “If I’m forced into retirement, so be it.”
“My way of living and my values and [sic] more important to me than a dollar.”
“A lot of other NFL players hold my position as well, but aren’t in the right place in their careers to be so outspoken,” the 32-year-old closed the thread. “I feel for you, and I hope I’m doing my part to represent you guys.”
According to the CDC:
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. … COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
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