The NFL and the NFLPA finalized the langue of the CBA amendment late Monday night, and with it, the NFL Management Council completed an updated list of the activities that will be deemed ‘high-risk’ that players must refrain from during the course of the 2020 season. In addition, the measures by which teams will be permitted to discipline players has been revised.
Most significantly, teams may now, at their discretion, fine or suspend a player who engages in reckless behavior exposing himself at high risk to Covid-19, for up to four weeks, or in the case of a fine, the equivalent of four weeks’ pay. The memo also states that there will be no written warnings for first offenses.
The NFL Management Council just sent clubs an updated discipline schedule, including fines and suspensions for “High Risk COVID-19 conduct,” such as going to clubs, bars and house parties without PPE.
No longer labeled High Risk in the final deal: Church. pic.twitter.com/0lntiBNZYS
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
You can read the details of the specific activities that are barred, but I can tell you that the wording of these restrictions has changed, in some cases significantly, to provide much more nuance, such as specifying what qualifies as a bar, and allowing players to attend sporting events if they are in a separated seating area. An important omission is religious services. Previously, the league sought to bar players from attending religious services that did not limit its attendance capacity.
Overall, the activities that the league is looking for its players to avoid consist of large gatherings in indoor environments, or in other words the conditions under which individuals are most likely to be exposed to and to contract the coronavirus.
These revisions were made under the shadow of the MLB’s struggles to contain their own battles. So far, within the first two weeks of their season, they have had two separate franchises—the Miami Marlins and now the St. Louis Cardinals—battle significant outbreaks of Covid-19, both generally within the organization and also specifically on their player roster. It even prompted MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to warn that player behavior must improve dramatically in order to complete the season.
The NFL, like the MLB, has avoided the ‘bubble’ approach that the NHL and the NBA have adopted in their efforts to complete their 2019-20 seasons, which were already underway when the pandemic escalated in March.
It relies much more on individual personal responsibility on behalf of everybody involved, and at least in the case of the Marlins, we already know definitively that the outbreak can be traced back to a number of different individual players exposing themselves to the public without proper protection and social distancing.
The NFL has already seen this happen to another league. They know that they must avoid a similar circumstance. They have a lot more money on the line, so they will surely encourage their teams to enforce these measures and discipline those who violate the agreed-upon terms.
By now, well over 100 players have either been placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list or chosen to opt out of the season—really, closer to 150 or so in total. Many players have already returned from the reserve list, but everyone involved understands that this will be an ongoing process throughout the season, as teams just now are beginning to get onto practice fields.