On Thursday the NFL reportedly proposed making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all players as it attempts to curb the spread of the virus ahead of the start of the regular season. The NFLPA, however, did not agree to the request, according to the league.
NFLPA spokesperson George Atallah told the Washington Post that union and player leadership did not believe a vaccination mandate for players was the best approach.
Currently, 93% of all players are vaccinated. While that figure far exceeds the vaccination rate in the general American population, the league knew the union might be hesitant about a mandate given the number of high-profile players who have yet to be vaccinated.
As a result, both parties had decided to incentivize vaccinations in different ways, including testing vaccinated players every 14 days instead of every day, not requiring vaccinated players to wear masks in the facility or on the sidelines and allowing those vaccinated to travel out of town without being subject to testing every day.
This strategy has worked for the most part, but there have been some hiccups. New England Patriots QB Cam Newton was forced to miss multiple practices due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities. Buffalo Bills wide receivers Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie were both fined for violating the NFL’S COVID-19 policy. Those fines came after the Bills sent six players home Tuesday who were deemed close contacts to a vaccinated staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
The NFLPA has also proposed requiring all players, regardless of vaccination status, to be tested every day, as they were last year. As Atallah told the Post, “We know vaccines are effective, but we also know our strict protocols -- when followed -- are effective as we proved last year.”
The NFL countered with a proposal to test vaccinated players every seven days rather than every 14 days. The two sides have not yet agreed on a revised testing strategy for vaccinated players.