The NFL has tried positive incentives to encourage their players to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But on the heels of a report earlier this week that multiple teams are still under the 50 percent vaccination mark, the league is trying a different tactic.
On Thursday the league informed clubs that if a game cannot be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players or staff this season, the team in question will have to forfeit the game and be credited with a loss, as first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The team would also be responsible for the financial losses incurred by the forfeit, and might face additional penalties from the league.
The NFL has expanded its schedule to 18 weeks this season, 17 games for each club. A memo sent out by the league states that “We do not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.”
“Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place,” the memo went on to say. “A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game.”
The league has also made it clear that this policy is a punishment for teams and players that choose not to get vaccinated, not for vaccinated individuals who still contract the virus.
“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.”
If a team does have to forfeit due to a lack of vaccinations, the players will also not get paid.
“If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week scheduled due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary.”
The league is citing Center for Disease Control data as justification for the new policy. Specifically the fact that 97 percent of new COVID cases involve individuals who are not vaccinated.