New NFL season kicks off amid rift over COVID-19 vaccines, testing
NEW YORK – The National Football League (NFL) kicks off another season on Thursday with profound differences of opinion lingering between the league and the union over COVID-19 vaccines and testing, as both parties work to manage the risks of playing in a pandemic.
Last month, the NFL pushed back on claims from the players’ union that it did not discuss making COVID-19 vaccines a requirement to play this season, despite mandating innoculations for staff and coaches.
“We’ve been discussing with the players’ association mandatory vaccination from the start,” NFL general counsel Lawrence Ferazani told reporters.
Brandon Parker, a spokesman for the NFLPA, said this week that the union “didn’t believe a mandate was necessary” and that “a more reasonable approach with the players would resonate”.
“We believed that a mandate would not be in the best interest of the players because of the better approach of education,” Parker said via email.
“We prefer everyone get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families, but our union respects the choice of players.”
The NFLPA is pushing for daily testing for all players – vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Currently, the league plans to test unvaccinated players daily and vaccinated players weekly.
The NFL declined to comment.
The League, however, gave an enormous incentive to get the vaccine in July, when it announced that COVID-19 outbreaks among non-vaccinated players during this season could lead to forfeits and loss of pay if matches cannot be rescheduled.