The National Football League has introduced a series of harsh financial and competitive sanctions in encouraging vaccination against Covid19 among players, with teams experiencing the virus outbreak among them. Disqualifications can be made for unvaccinated players, and players will have their matches checked.
In a memorandum sent to 32 teams by federation commissioner Roger Goodell, new penalties were introduced in which matches that cannot be rescheduled due to unvaccinated players and will be forfeited.
The team behind the outbreak will also lose the play-off seeding, a place in the draft, and the opposing team will be credited with the win. In addition, players of both teams will not receive any payments for the loss. And the team responsible for the cancellation will cover the financial costs, including lost receipts at the gate that would have been allocated for union revenue sharing and additional travel expenses, at the same time will be subject to additional discipline from the federation office.
The large-scale competitive and financial penalties represent the largest discipline to date aimed at unvaccinated players. The vaccination rate is over 80% among players for at least half of the 32 NFL teams.
The league has not made vaccinations mandatory, per an agreement with the NFL Players Association, instead strongly urging them alongside the union. In 2020, the NFL went out of its way to reschedule 18 games as COVID-19 outbreaks flared up. The league will likely be less accommodating this year now that vaccines are available.
The latest measures advance upon prior protocols laid out by the NFL for the upcoming training camp, in which strict operational procedures were followed on unvaccinated players. But as nearly all Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are amidst unvaccinated individuals amid broad vaccine availability, the NFL has further strengthened its procedures.
In response to the Goodell memo, the NFLPA did not object to new measures and said the core of the league’s Covid-19 policies is essentially unchanged from 2020.
While this model from the NFL will be viewed as harsh it is highly likely that leagues in all parts of the world will try and implement some kind of policies for outbreaks and vaccinations as we enter the new season.