NFL may force teams to forfeit over COVID outbreaks among unvaccinated players

The NFL is warning teams that COVID outbreaks among unvaccinated players could cause games to be canceled. The league said it expects all players to get their shots by the time the season kicks off on September 9.

In a new memo, Commissioner Roger Goodell said games would no longer be rescheduled and teams responsible for the cancelation would receive a loss on their record and players on both teams would not be paid.

“As we learned last year, we can play a full season if we maintain a firm commitment to adhering to our health and safety protocols and to making needed adjustments in response to changing conditions,” Goodell said in the memo.

“While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption — either due to Covid outbreaks among our clubs or outbreaks that occur within the larger community.”

The news comes as most NFL teams prepare for training camp this summer. So far, only 75% have received one dose of the vaccine and 14 of the league’s 32 teams have passed the required 85% threshold for vaccinated players, said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesperson.

Arizona Cardinals star DeAndre Hopkins, who has said he would not get the vaccine, reacted to the memo on Twitter. In a now-deleted tweet, Hopkins said: “Never thought I would say this, But being in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @nfl.”

McCarthy said the vaccine is not mandatory for players, but team personnel who interact with players are required to have the shots. “We have encouraged fans and everyone in the NFL family to get information about the health benefits of the vaccine and to get vaccinated,” he said in a statement. “Nearly 100 percent of these personnel are vaccinated.”

In an interview with CBS News on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci applauded the NFL’s new policy, saying other organizations will likely follow suit.

“I think the NFL is sending a very strong signal that we and others are sending in different ways in different forums, is that it’s very important to get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “What the NFL is saying, if you want to play football and you want to do it in a way that you feel unrestricted and not worry about any penalties, you just get vaccinated, because they’re saying that if unvaccinated people get infected, there are going to be consequences.”

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