- The NFL has sent a memo to teams informing them that COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players could result in a loss by forfeit.
- The league will not extend the season to accommodate game cancellations caused by unvaccinated players.
- Teams that are responsible for cancelled games due to unvaccinated players will cover financial losses and are subject to potential discipline from the Commissioner’s office.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been memorable for any number of reasons but its impact on the sports betting world is definitely among them. The past sixteen months has been a complete freak show for every sports league in the world and that resulted in an equally bizarre situation within the betting and bookmaking ecosystem. The NFL managed to complete their season despite a massive financial hit. In the process, the league did everything in their power to accommodate teams suffering COVID-19 outbreaks which included almost weekly schedule changes and postponements. Almost miraculously, the NFL was able to play all 272 games without any cancellations.
Don’t expect more of the same in 2021–at least in response to outbreaks among unvaccinated players and staff members. The NFL has thankfully stopped playing patty-cake with players, coaches and other personnel that aren’t willing to act like an adult and get vaccinated. In a memo sent to the 32 teams last week, the NFL stressed their plans to play the 272 game season in 18 weeks. In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players that cannot be rescheduled within that 18 week window the team suffering the outbreak will forfeit and be credited with a loss. Even better–in the event that a team must forfeit a game they will cover financial losses and be subject to potential discipline from the Commissioner’s office.
Here’s some of the relevant verbiage from the memo:
“We do not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.”
“If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection,. We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. 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.”
To their credit, the NFL reports that 80% of the league’s players have been vaccinated as well as ‘close to 100%’ of Tier 1 and Tier 2 team employees. These two tiers are the staff members that deal directly with players. 9 teams have reached the 90% plateau. Despite some vocal (and not very convincing) anti-vax types in the league these numbers are significantly better than the overall US population. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills says this is a good start but more work is needed:
“We’re pleased with those numbers, but we’re not satisfied. We want to see them continue to go up. Certainly those rates are well above what we’re seeing in the rest of society and certainly above the same age group as most of our players are. So a great head-start, more work to be done.”
The NFL might not take the step of making vaccinations mandatory but short of that this is a very strong statement. The league has made it clear that teams that don’t get their players vaccinated will assume the competitive and financial risks involved. The league memo is emphatic about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines available and doesn’t entertain any of the fridge social media conspiracy theories nor does it minimize the importance as being a ‘personal decision’:
We know that vaccines are safe and effective and are the best step anyone can take to be safe from the coronavirus. The vaccines continue to provide strong immunity against variants of the coronavirus, including the Delta variant. Even with recent increases, new cases remain far below the peak levels of earlier this year. Both the CDC and major hospital systems throughout the country have reported that 97 percent or more of the new cases and virtually all hospitalizations are seen in unvaccinated individuals. While there have been “breakthrough” infections – cases where a vaccinated individual has been infected – those cases tend to be mild and people recover from the infection relatively quickly.
The NFL’s stance reflects what you’re seeing on a broad scale in the United States. Companies are beginning to require employee vaccinations and that includes the Federal government. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that health care workers will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. On a macro level, medical professionals are making the case to that the companies that employ them should also mandate vaccination. The responsible members of the population are tired of watching the less responsible prolong the pandemic and they’re letting this be known–better late than never.