- This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: July 9, 2021
A new set of COVID-19 protocols for NFL players is creating what is essentially a two-tiered system for players who have chosen to get vaccinated vs. those who are still opting out of getting a vaccine.
The news was shared on Twitter by NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero; the graphic attached to the tweet shared a contrast between the experience in store for the two camps.
For those who are not fully vaccinated, the NFL protocols include COVID-19 testing every day; remaining fully distant from other people in the club facility; not being allowed to eat with teammates; and not being allowed to participate in social, media, marketing, or sponsoring activities.
The NFL website article on the new COVID protocols also noted, “Individuals who are not fully vaccinated, including players, will be prohibited from gathering outside club facilities or team travel. NFL players who are not fully vaccinated will be barred from going to nightclubs, bars, house parties, concerts, etc. Failure to follow the protocols could result in fines of $50,000 for a first offense.”
The Athletic included observations from Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer who said that while players will have to “make their own decisions” about vaccinations, he admitted those opting out of vaccination are “going to have a harder time” this season.
“They’re going to be wearing masks,” Zimmer said. “They’ll have to social distance. They’ll have daily testings. They won’t be able to go home for bye week. They’ll have to come back here and test every day.”
“When we go on the road, they won’t be able to go out to dinner with anybody,” he continued. “They’ll have to travel on buses differently, travel on planes differently. A lot of the meetings will be virtual like this, so there’s not only the safety part of being vaccinated, but as far as being part of a football team, it’s just going to be so much easier.”
At least one player was publically critical of the new protocols. Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon took to Twitter to say, “The @NFLPA (NFL Players Association) is not for the players,” adding, “They act like they represent us and they clearly show us different time & time again.”
Mixon elaborated by writing, “I thought Football was a team sport and it’s clearly being individualized by beliefs.”
Those tweets led to people weighing in about the issue, including one person who observed, “Not getting vaccinated is the definition of putting yourself before the team.”
According to Fox News, “Mixon argued that his issue was not about players being vaccinated or not but rather having the ability to decide,” and its article on the controversy included several other players, like New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Washington Football Team defensive lineman Montez Sweat, who have publicly expressed either vaccine hesitancy or out-and-out resistance.
In June 2021, a number of professional athletes have been affected by COVID-19 diagnosis, including golfer Jon Rahm, boxing star Teofimo Lopez, and NBA standout Chris Paul. In mid-July, heavyweight champion Tyson Fury tested positive, postponing his fight (and the tens of millions of dollars that would come with it) vs. Deontay Wilder. Fury reportedly had gotten the first dose of the vaccine but had not gotten the second.