By Martin Beller
The NFL has issued COVID-19 vaccination incentive for players, threatening forfeits and the loss of game checks if an outbreak among unvaccinated players causes an unresolvable disruption in the regular-season schedule.
Commissioner Roger Goodell informed clubs of the new policy today in a memo.
The league has encouraged vaccination for players but has not required it, per an agreement with the NFL Players Association.
Instead, the league has set up a series of incentives. As of Thursday, Goodell wrote, more than 75% of NFL players were at least partially vaccinated and more than half of the league’s teams have player vaccination rates above 80%.
Unvaccinated players will be subject to severe protocols during training camp and the regular season, including daily testing, mask-wearing and travel restrictions. Today’s memo made clear that unvaccinated players could, in theory, be responsible for the losses of games and paychecks as well.
The new policy drills down on a scenario that never occurred in 2020, when the NFL postponed five games and moved 10 others to accommodate outbreaks.
A forfeit will be called in 2021 if all of the following circumstances occur:
A game is postponed by requirement of government authorities or medical experts, or at the discretion of the commissioner, because of ongoing health concerns of an outbreak.
The league can’t find a suitable date to reschedule within the 18-week framework of the regular season.
The original postponement was caused by an outbreak among unvaccinated players of one team.