The NFL has recently made headlines for their announcement of their COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming 2021-22 NFL season. While the vaccine has reduced the impact of COVID-19, it hasn’t eliminated the virus, and cases appear to be on the rise. The vaccine has shown itself to be an extremely effective method of preventing the spread of this epidemic, and because of that, the NFL has gone all-in on ensuring the vaccination of their players by enforcing stringent rules. These rules have sent shockwaves through the league, with some players questioning them, and others agreeing with their necessity.
For the NFL, a lot rides on their players being vaccinated. Every game in the NFL is a huge revenue source, so it makes sense that they would have rules that incentivize their players getting a vaccine that protects the games. Not even to mention the amount of money jiggled on the NFL betting, which will be affected if games are cancelled. Bettors love the NFL because of the scarcity and event-like status of each game, so losing out on games would hurt the league and fans.
Some of the NFL’s rules have set Twitter ablaze and garnered serious discussion amongst fans, players, and pundits. For starters, the NFL will be fining unvaccinated players $14,650 for any violation of COVID-19 protocol, according to a report by ESPN. These protocols include rules for the number of people allowed in certain locations, mask mandates, and other rules governing where and how players and staff can interact.
The other rule, which has generated arguably even more headlines, is that if there is a COVID-19 outbreak amongst a certain team, where players/staff contributing to the outbreak are unvaccinated, it could lead to a forfeiture of the game. This means if a team is responsible for the outbreak due to their lack of vaccinations, and the game can’t be rescheduled later in the year, the game will count as a loss for the team responsible.
This rule is especially dramatic in a league where only 17 games are played. The NFL is a league where winning comes at such a premium, and where the loss of one game could define an entire season. It is also a league where teams deploy a win-at-all-costs model. Owners, coaches, and executives are now in a position where ensuring their players are vaccinated is part of securing a competitive advantage.
That doesn’t mean these rules have come without some serious resistance. DeAndre Hopkins, the superstar Wide Receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, tweeted out his opinion on the matter when he said, “Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @Nfl.” in a since-deleted tweet, according to KHOU-11.
Hopkins isn’t the only player who has voiced his displeasure for this policy, with several other players including Leonard Fournette making their anger heard. Others, however, have spoken in favour of the policy. Buffalo Bill’s D-lineman Jerry Hughes has tweeted in favour of the vaccine, and Jerry Jones, legendary Dallas Cowboys owner, has spoken out in his support of his team reaching the 85% vaccination threshold that the NFL is targeting for every team.
For the NFL, it is just prudent business to go out of their way to encourage the vaccine amongst players. The vaccine is proven to be effective in limiting the spread and the damage of COVID-19, and the NFL has every reason to ensure that as many people affiliated with the NFL as possible are vaccinated. If there is an outbreak and a game is cancelled, the NFL is losing out on ticketing money, betting money, concessions, and most importantly, TV money. The NFL must protect their business interests.
While it is understandable that some players who have concerns about the vaccine would feel upset and like they are being pressured into doing something they don’t want to do, the NFL is a private business. They are well within their rights to do what they are doing, and if it protects players and keeps the league running, strict COVID rules make all the sense in the world.