The NFL isn’t forcing players to get vaccinated, but they are finding other ways to encourage it. In a memo to teams, the league explained that teams with outbreaks among unvaccinated players will be required to forfeit if their game cannot be rescheduled inside of the 18-week season (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). The forfeit would impact playoff seeding for the team. And, in that event, players would be paid for the game.
“If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection,” the NFL said in the memo. “We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.”
“We do not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.”
Furthermore, the team responsible for the cancellation would be responsible for covering costs. There could also be additional discipline from the league office.
Every team has at least 50% of its players vaccinated, Pelissero hears. Presumably, teams will be working harder than ever to get the number towards 100%.
The new guidelines weren’t received well by everyone. Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was among those to speak out on social media in a since-deleted tweet.
“Never thought I would say this, But being 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,” Hopkins wrote.