The NFL Is Indirectly Mandating COVID Vaccines With Threat Of Forfeiture, Punishments For Only The Unvaccinated

nfl mandate vaccine unvaccinated forfeit games

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  • The NFL has presented its strongest incentive to date for players and staff to get vaccinated.
  • Teams that suffer an outbreak among unvaccinated players will be forced to forfeit games.
  • Check out more sports coverage at BroBible here.

The NFL has reportedly sent a memo to every team around the league stating that if a COVID outbreak occurs among unvaccinated players then the team will be forced to forfeit games that are impacted that can not be rescheduled.

In other words, the NFL just indirectly mandated its players receive the vaccine. There likely isn’t a team in the league that is going to tolerate even just one or two unvaccinated players on its roster if it means there’s a chance of being forced to forfeit. There is far too much money on the line for these teams to risk forfeiting a game.

Tom Pelissero was the first to share the memo on Twitter.

One of the first things to note here is that the memo states teams that suffer an outbreak among unvaccinated players will have to forfeit the game(s) impacted “if a game cannot be rescheduled.”

The NFL chose this language on purpose, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to make a difference. The memo goes on to explain that the league is set on playing its entire schedule over 18 weeks and does “not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled.”

In other words, the NFL is going to make it virtually impossible for a team to reschedule a game this season.

Different Rules And Punishments For The Vaccinated & Unvaccinated

Taking a loss in the standings isn’t the only thing at risk for teams around the league if players go unvaccinated, either. There are gigantic financial implications in play here as well. Plus, unvaccinated players will abide by different rules and punishments.

Pelissero outlines that the team responsible for a canceled game because of an outbreak among unvaccinated players will be responsible for financial loss and subject to potential discipline from the commissioner.

Those same rules don’t apply if there is a breakout among vaccinated players.

“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,” the memo states.

In simple terms, the league is only going to look out for players that get vaccinated and teams with a high vaccine threshold.

Will Players Get Paid If A Game Can’t Be Rescheduled?

No, no they will not.

“If a game is canceled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a COVID outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary.”

Not only will the team with the outbreak not be paid, neither will the other team involved in the canceled game.

If that isn’t mandating the vaccine by not technically mandating the vaccine, I’m not sure what is.

What If A Player Tests Positive, Regardless Of Their Vaccination Status?

Most people probably assume that one positive COVID test is the same as another positive COVID test, but not in the NFL’s eyes.

Any vaccinated players who test positive and are asymptomatic can return to action after two negative tests 24 hours apart. This means they could very well test positive on a Wednesday and still play in a game on Sunday.

The same can’t be said for unvaccinated players that test positive. Anyone that tests positive that hasn’t received the vaccine is subject to mandatory 10-day isolation.

So, an unvaccinated player that tests positive and is showing no symptoms could return those same two negative tests 24 hours apart but isn’t guaranteed to return to action.

Back in May, Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane said that it would be an “advantage” to be able to cut unvaccinated players. Well, it’s safe to say he was onto something there.

Not every player or staffer in the NFL is going to get the vaccine, regardless of this news, which means we’re likely in store for this whole situation to get uglier before it gets any better.

The NFL’s decision to take this drastic of a stance after the NBA and NHL just pulled off, for the most part, highly successful seasons is somewhat surprising.

Mark Harris avatar
Mark is an associate editor and the resident golf guy here at BroBible. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris. You can reach him at