As training camps open, the NFL is continuing to crystalize their position: you are free to choose whether or not to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, but doing so will come to you at a disadvantage; and your team, as well.
The league issued a memo earlier today which made it clear that teams may be subject to forfeiture of games this season if a game must be postponed due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players if it cannot be rescheduled within an 18-game schedule. This is unlikely to come up, but it’s another way of incentivizing as many people in the league as possible to get vaccinated. The memo reads:
The league will make every reasonable effort, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, the complete the full 272-game regular season within the current 18 weeks and all postseason games as scheduled, in a safe and responsible way. This is grounded in a commitment to players, coaches, fans, and business partners. We do not anticipate adding a “19th” week to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.
Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place. A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game.
If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the concellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection. We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.
If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule and is cancelled, due to a Covid outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest and will be deemed to have played 16 games for the purposes of draft, waiver priority, etc. For the purposes of playoff seeding, the forfeiting team will be credited with a loss and the other team will be credited with a win.
Here’s more from today’s memo, which also says the team responsible for a canceled game because of an outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff will be responsible for financial losses and subject to potential discipline from the commissioner. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Q86a2WcG1K
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 22, 2021
In the memo, it is noted that more than 75 percent of the players in the league have already begun the vaccination process, and more than half of the league’s teams have at least 80 percent of their roster fully vaccinated or in the process. By the time the regular season rolls around, it’s likely that this may be much higher, given the smaller roster sizes and a continued emphasis on players getting vaccinated.
While a forfeiture was on the table last year, it would have taken very egregious circumstances in order for that to happen. This season, with vaccinations readily available, the league is making sure to place all the burden on teams and their players to do whatever possible to minimize the risk of a disruption in the schedule, with the latest step being the threat of a forfeiture for a game that cannot be rescheduled.
Again, however, this didn’t even happen last year, so the likelihood of it coming up this season is low. Remember, this is a business, and they want to make money. It costs them a lot of money to cancel a game, so they’ll do whatever it takes to reschedule. Just recall the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Thanksgiving Day game against the Baltimore Ravens, which ended up being played the following Wednesday.