NFL Enhances Vaccination Incentives for Players

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Now the one pro league in the offseason, the National Football League, has agreed to policies with the NFL Players Association that are aligned with many of the other pro sports in encouraging vaccinations by players. Players who are fully vaccinated will not be subject to daily testing or mask requirements, will not have to quarantine if they are exposed to a COVID-19 positive person and won’t have travel restrictions. Those who are not fully vaccinated, however, will not receive those perks.

“The union joins us in encouraging all players to get vaccinated,” Goodell said. “We know for a fact that that is the one step everyone can take that makes them safer.”

Staff members at each NFL team have been told vaccination is expected unless they have an approved religious or medical exemption since that is not collectively bargained. A two-day virtual league meeting last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said 30 of the 32 teams have reported vaccination rates of more than 90 percent among the Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff groups that work among football operations — with the other two teams over 85 percent.

“We do think all players and personnel are safer if they are vaccinated,” Goodell said. “I don’t know of a single medical source that doesn’t believe that.”

The NFL also confirmed that 30 of the league’s 32 stadiums have already been given permission to open at full capacity in the fall — the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos are the outliers for now, although the league expects that to change over the summer. Teams will also be permitted to host fans when training camps open in late July, subject to state and local health guidelines.

“One of the things we’ve obviously learned over the last year is not to make projections too far out,” Goodell said last Wednesday. “… But we do think it will be a much more normal experience. We do expect full stadiums. It is very possible that some non-vaccinated personnel may have masks on. But those are things that I think we’ll continue to follow closely, make sure that we’re doing in accordance with all laws and regulations and make sure that we provide our fans the best possible experience.”

Vaccination incentives have been a large part of professional and collegiate sports teams’ plans to have fans back in larger quantities — cheaper tickets for those who get shots at the stadium, vaccinated sections that have health and safety protocols eased and more.

Leagues have also been using incentives to encourage players to get their shots, with the easing of the strict protocols in place for players after negotiations between the leagues and their respective players’ associations. With NBA and NHL seasons in the postseason, teams were able to ease up on some of the protocols at the end of the regular season; Major League Baseball has seen success with more than half of its teams getting to the 85 percent threshold for easing protocols.

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