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NFL says coronavirus outbreaks among unvaccinated players could result in forfeits this season

The new rule makes not being vaccinated a competitive disadvantage this year, all as part of the league’s pressure to get players and staff vaccinated ahead of the coming season. The NFL also said any team that vaccinates 85% of its players and staff can relax their safety protocols and have applied looser rules to players who are vaccinated.

“If a match cannot be rescheduled in the current 18-week schedule and is canceled due to an outbreak of Covid among unvaccinated players from one of the competing teams, the club with the outbreak will lose the competition. and will be deemed to have played 16 games for draft purposes, priority for quitting, etc. For playoff ranking purposes, the losing team will be credited with one loss and the other team will be credited with one victory ” , reads the NFL memo sent out on Thursday.

Additionally, if a match is postponed and cannot be rescheduled, players from both teams will not receive their scheduled salary. The note also states that the team affected by the outbreak will be responsible for any additional expenses incurred by the opposing team.

Other sports leagues have taken a similar approach to encourage vaccinations. In college football, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued a warning on Monday that games will not be postponed due to coronavirus concerns, ESPN reported.

Last season, the NFL postponed a series of games due to several outbreaks of Covid-19 within teams. The NFL eventually hosted all scheduled regular season and playoff games, but the preseason and Pro Bowl were canceled.

The new NFL rules are likely to cause problems for players who are still hesitant to get the shot. For example, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley said in a series of tweets in May that he would rather retire than get the shot.

And on Thursday, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted and then suppressed his negative reaction to the rules. “I never thought I would say that, but being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to participate in the vaccine makes me question my future in the NFL,” he wrote.

What the note says

The four-page NFL memo is divided into sections on medical principles, competition principles, and financial principles. The competitive section indicates that the league does not plan to add an extra week to the season to accommodate games that are rescheduled.

The note also distinguishes between epidemics among unvaccinated and vaccinated people and indicates that an epidemic among unvaccinated people will be viewed less favorably.

“If a match is canceled / postponed because a club cannot play due to a peak in Covid among or resulting from its unvaccinated players / staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the victim club of Covid infection. We will. seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club (s). If a club cannot play due to a peak in Covid among vaccinated individuals, we will try to minimize the competitive and economic burden of the two participating teams.

With teams starting to show up for training camp, the NFL has seen an increase in Covid-19 vaccination rates around the league this week, with 14 of 32 NFL teams reaching the upper threshold of 85 %, the league told CNN.

The NFL also reported that 78% of league players have received at least one vaccine, an increase of more than 4% from last week.

All teams in the league are now above the 50% vaccination threshold, the league said, after previously having two teams last week with less than half of their players vaccinated.

CNN’s David Close contributed to this report.

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