Some star athletes aren’t getting the COVID vaccine, and it’s already costing them big bucks

pro athletes covid vaccine
Photo via Erin Costa/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: Aug. 2, 2021

A pro golfer was dramatically informed—while still on the golf course—that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus in the midst of a tournament on June 5, and he had to drop out of an event he was winning. That’s the most recent example of a pro athlete contracting COVID and the importance of getting a vaccine within the close-knit communities where close contact often comes with the job.

Golfer Jon Rahm had to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament after completing the third round of a four-round tournament while leading by six strokes. Bizarrely, the revelation happened on the golf course in full view of spectators and on the CBS broadcast of the event.

Rahm, according to the Washington Post, was subjected to testing after revealing to PGA Tour officials that he’d come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The publication characterized the revelation of his positive test as “stunning news that left the golfer visibly distressed as he was told of the result.”

While it wasn’t clear whether Rahm had been fully vaccinated, his new COVID-19 diagnosis means he might have to miss the upcoming U.S. Open, starting June 17. Though he’s asymptomatic, he’ll have to remain isolated through June 15, per PGA Tour protocols.

If Rahm had won The Memorial, he also would have pocketed about $1.7 million.

A few weeks later, Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau both had to bow out of the Olympics because of positive COVID tests.

While golfers are the pro athletes that can play their sport following social distancing guidelines, that’s not true of football, and there are newly-activated concerns regarding NFL players and COVID vaccines.

According to the Boston Globe, a pair of agents said they believe that less than 50% of NFL players have received at least one shot. While the NFL is requiring that coaches and other staff members get vaccinated, they’re not asking the same of players, even though there are some built-in incentives for players to get inoculated.

The Globe article noted that unvaccinated players have to get tested for coronavirus exposure every day, compared to once a week for fully vaccinated players. Players also have to step away from team activities for at least five days if a “high-risk close contact of an infected individual” occurs, they must wear masks around other team members, and they can’t participate in meetings.

There’s also, of course, the real possibility of missed game weeks should a player test positive for COVID-19.

Yet some players, many of whom sat out the 2020 season because of the coronavirus risks, are apparently passing up vaccinations and subjecting themselves to those precautions and risks.

“It’s been hard to get my clients to get vaccinated,” said veteran agent David Canter, who represents nearly 50 NFL players. “Guys are going to do what they’re going to do. They’ve never been guys who are going to kowtow to whatever the public or whatever coach wants them to do, unless their job is on the line.”

It’s not just limited to players. Yahoo! Sports reported that at least four teams’ assistant coaches may lose direct access to both players and the practice field if they continue to hold out from getting vaccinated. Those coaches risk losing what the NFL has dubbed Tier 1 status if they continue to be unvaccinated by mid-June.

There is the possibility, however, that coaches could declare religious or medical reasons for refusing the vaccines and still retain their status.

Sources: Washington Post, Boston Globe, Yahoo! Sports

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