The NFL had to move a game because of Covid-19. The NFL is not happy. And the voice of the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell, sent out a strongly worded memo yesterday to all 32 teams with a simple message: compliance with protocols is mandatory, and discipline for failure to comply can be harsh.
Arguably the most eye-catching part of the memo sent out was included toward the end, in which Goodell lays out bare the fact that teams can face stiff penalties in the event that they experience a Covid-19 outbreak in which negligence is involved and requires the league to alter the schedule as a result.
“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeiture of a game”, he writes.
NFL now has wrapped up today’s COVID “accountability, learnings and requirements” conference call with all teams. Here’s the memo that went out to all teams: pic.twitter.com/tfassYNSJA
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 5, 2020
Why is this relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers? Aside from the obvious fact that the memo applies to the organization as much as the 31 others, the Steelers are one of the teams who had their game postponed, after the Tennessee Titans experienced a 20-person outbreak.
Does this suggest that the NFL would possibly consider requiring that the Titans forfeit their game against the Steelers if they find that the outbreak was caused by gross negligence? My guess is that they would not go that far right now, but other teams should be concerned.
The feeling is that the NFL is looking to find fault in Tennessee either way, however. It is better for there to have been a failure in execution of the protocol than for there to have been a failure in the design of the protocol itself, so if they can ‘blame’ the Titans for what happened there, that is the option they will seize upon.
That said, we have seen numerous examples since March demonstrating how relatively easy it is for the virus to spread within a group once introduced. Whether at a small family gathering for a birthday, a church choir practice, an outdoor barbecue, or numerous other examples, Covid-19 has found a way to jump from host to host.
If the NFL were particularly concerned about player mortality, they would not even be having a season. But the league understands that you cannot play games in an environment in which transmission is a predictable possibly outcome.
“There have been breaches to the protocols and individual players, staff, and clubs have been disciplined as a result”, the memo reads, noting that they will continue to review their protocols and team facilities. “If it is determined that club personnel or players failed to have followed the protocols, disciplined will be issued and will escalate where noncompliance continues”.
Outside of Tennessee, the most notable example so far has been the Las Vegas Raiders and Jon Gruden, who removed his mask earlier this week after having already been fined for doing so. The organization has also been fined for allowing an unauthorized person into the locker room, and numerous players were fined for attending an indoor fundraiser without masks.