NFL players who are anti-vaccine will affect the season. Do you agree with that?
The confrontation is approaching and it will leave scars. On the one hand, we love our NFL. On the other hand, not everyone likes the COVID-19 vaccine … and that includes a significant portion of NFL players.
You can see where this is heading.
Shortly after training camp begins next month, an NFL player will test positive for the coronavirus. No, many will. Given such a large sample size, with over 3,000 players invited to NFL camps in the league and an American positivity rate hovering around 2%, well, you can do the math. Or here, let me do it for you: it looks like 2% of 3,000 are… 60 players.
Two per team, to give or take.
We love our freedom, don’t we? Give us that – or kill us. Patrick Henry said something along these lines in 1775, shortly before becoming governor of colonial Virginia, but only the liberation of the United States from British rule was at stake.
Patrick Henry did not play the New York Jets quarterback. He also didn’t have an Indianapolis Colts season ticket. The choice in 1775 was simple. But it’s football.
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Federal laws “do not prevent an employer from requiring that all employees physically entering the workplace be vaccinated against COVID-19.” This is a May 21 update on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website. There are provisions for religious and other beliefs, but overall US law is clear:
NFL teams can tell their players to get the shot. They won’t, of course. NFL owners know the NFL Players Association would oppose it, so they avoided that problem by pushing for a vaccination.
Therefore, to say.
At Walmart, employees receive $ 75 for showing proof of vaccination. United Airlines pays much more; vaccinated pilots receive up to 13 hours of pay, flight attendants 9 3/4 hours. Wary of a vaccination warrant, some employers offer a carrot.
The NFL offers the stick.
Don’t get the shot, the NFL said, and you’re stuck with 2020 protocols – daily COVID testing, mandatory masks and social distancing, travel restrictions, and even inability to shower or lift weights with teammates if these zones have reached the capacity limits.
The NFLPA agreed to those terms, which didn’t go well with Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley, who took over the NFLPA leadership.
“The players’ association is a joke”, Beasley wrote last week on Twitter. “Call it something different. It’s not for gamers. … A lot of other NFL players are in my job as well, but they’re not in the right position in their careers to be so blunt. I’m not going to take medication for a leg that isn’t broken, ”he wrote on June 18, similar to what Washington defensive end Montez Sweat had said nine days earlier:
“I haven’t caught COVID yet,” Sweat said, “so I don’t see myself dealing with COVID until I actually get COVID.”
The vaccine is not a cure, of course. It is preventive. But with so much disparate content available online and so many irresponsible places posting it, people are confused. A rumor was circulating recently that the vaccine actually magnetizes the body. Videos and everything, paper clips hanging where the shot was delivered.
This is nonsense, of course, debunked beyond a doubt. But in a world that is growing numb with every passing day, some listen only to voices that will tell them what they want to hear. And so Cole Beasley likens preventing a highly communicable disease that has killed over 600,000 Americans to treating a broken leg. And Montez Sweat says he won’t get the vaccine until he’s already sick.
Nationally, the debate rages on. The vaccination rate in the United States is 45.6%.
According to the Washington Post, 16 teams saw at least 55% of the list receive vaccines. Three teams have a vaccination rate of 80% or more. The four NFL teams with the lowest vaccination rates? The Jaguars, Chargers, Cardinals and Colts.
As for Bills wide receiver Beasley, he said something everyone can embrace:
“I fully understand why the NFL is doing this,” he wrote on Twitter. “It gives them the freedom to make as much money as possible again if everyone is vaccinated. But will someone fight for the players or not?
Well, this is the showdown I mentioned earlier. Are we ready to fight for football players – or for football?
On this issue, it is not the same.
It’s all about us
You can see how it’s going to go. A key NFL player tests positive, or there is an epidemic among a handful of teammates, and the competitive balance is affected. We tolerate injuries, even in training, because it’s bad luck. It happens.
Are we going to tolerate this? How would you feel, knowing that vaccines have a success rate of over 95%, if unvaccinated players are sidelined due to COVID-19? Playoff spots usually boil down to one game. Can you imagine
Because it … it wouldn’t be bad luck. It’s not to have happen. Getting vaccinated is a choice – as personal freedoms tend to be – but it has much more impact than the person involved. That’s why this whole problem, since the pandemic started shutting down businesses and sports leagues in March 2020, is so complicated:
It’s not just you. Or me. It’s about us, with this inconvenient truth: what I do could affect you. And vice versa.
We have seen glimpses of this conflict – personal freedom versus community responsibility – in the world of sport. Phoenix Suns goalie Chris Paul, who finished fifth in the MVP vote this season, was selected Sunday from Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after testing positive for COVID-19. The Suns still beat the Los Angeles Clippers, but imagine if they didn’t. Would teammates and fans defend Paul’s quest for freedom or hold him responsible for letting everyone down?
US Open champion Jon Rahm tested positive for COVID-19 at the memorial tournament on June 5 and was removed from an event he was leading. His reaction on the 18th green, after finishing the third round with a six-stroke lead, was heartbreaking – but in an individual sport like golf, who has he harmed besides himself ?
In boxing, another individual sport, unvaccinated lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez tested positive for COVID-19 on June 15, five days before his title fight with George Kambosos Jr. The fight has been postponed and Kambosos is mad. Fight promoter Ryan Kavanaugh says Lopez won’t be ready anytime soon.
“The last time I heard he had a fever of 102 (degrees Fahrenheit) and 90% oxygen. He also has asthma,” Kavanaugh told DAZN, the fight’s streaming provider. “He’s going to be very affected by this. It’s not like, ‘Oh, he’ll be better in four days.’ He needs time, he couldn’t even shadowbox for 45 seconds without collapsing.
That’s another factor for the equation: the potential danger of the coronavirus, even for a world-class athlete like Teofimo Lopez (or Cole Beasley or Montez Sweat). But this part of this question is a personal choice. Get the vaccine, don’t do it; the risk to your body is up to you.
The risk for those around you … does that also depend on you? Is it right?
That’s the question, and an NFL player – along with his teammates, coaches, and fans – will face the answer soon enough.
Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.