Commissioner Roger Goodell detailed the plan Thursday in a memo sent to all 32 teams. The memo, which was viewed by Sportico, outlines the league’s approach to vaccines, testing and quarantine as it prepares to host another season amid the pandemic.
The approach is designed to protect the financial interests of the world’s richest sports league, which lost billions last year when the pandemic severely limited attendance at regular season and postseason games. The league and its union appear to be in lockstep in trying to both promote the efficacy of the vaccine, and to encourage athletes to get one, with harsher restrictions being placed on those who refuse.
The memo says that “nearly all clubs” have vaccinated their most important tiers of staffers, and that more than 75% of players are in the process of getting their shots. It also says more than half of clubs have a vaccination rate above 80%, though some players, like Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley, have been outspoken in their refusal. The news prompted chatter on Twitter, with some players defending teammates who’ve not been vaccinated.
Some of y’all clearly didn’t get what I’m saying here lol.. the NFL is pressuring/ “influencing” guys to get the vaccine. They are saying if there is an outbreak, the team will be penalized heavily. My point is no teammate of mine will feel that pressure from me because… https://t.co/odRnl7xUUZ
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) July 22, 2021
For the 2021 season, if a game is rescheduled due to a COVID outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will be responsible for paying the additional travel expenses associated with the new date, and to cover any shortfall from the 34% of gate receipts that typically gets pooled into league-wide revenue sharing.
This is the first year of the NFL’s 17-game regular season and the league will not be adding weeks to the end of the regular season to make rescheduling easier. If the game cannot be rescheduled within the 18-week regular season, the that club will forfeit the game and be responsible for covering the entire payment for revenue-sharing. In that scenario, neither team’s players will receive their weekly base salary.
The memo does make a distinction for games disrupted due to outbreaks among vaccinated players. If that occurs, Goodell said the NFL will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden for both teams.
With assistance from Kurt Badenhausen