• Alejandro Echeverria

Professional athletes face vaccine dilemma

By Alejandro Echeverria

October 24, 2021


Photo Credit: Associated Press

With professional sports back in full swing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s take a look at how the NFL and NBA have established a variety of protocols to ensure player safety, and how these regulations affect players’ and teams’ bottom lines.


NFL Vaccine Protocols:

In the NFL, players are encouraged to be vaccinated by both the league and Players Association. If they are not, they must follow various requirements. Non-vaccinated players must wear masks at team facilities and get tested for COVID daily, while vaccinated players are not required to wear masks and only get tested every 14 days.


Additionally, players who are unvaccinated must physically distance themselves from others, quarantine if they have exposure to the virus, forgo interactions with family and friends when they travel, forgo eating in the team cafeteria, forfeit sauna and steam room privileges, and adhere to capacity limits in their teams’ weight rooms.


NFL Vaccine Protocol Financial Implications on Players and Teams:

Non-vaccinated players will not be paid for games missed due to COVID. These players also have restrictions on what activities they can partake in when not with the team, such as what restaurants and events they are allowed to attend.


The punishment for not following these rules is a fine of up to $14,650. Additionally, any team with an outbreak is responsible for any extra expenses incurred by opposing teams, as these outbreaks may lead to games being postponed or even teams being forced to forfeit games entirely. This is according to the new rules, which state that if a game can’t be rescheduled during the 18-week season due to a COVID outbreak, the team must forfeit and will be given a loss on their record. Furthermore, neither team’s players would be paid their salaries for that week of lost football.


NBA Vaccine Protocols

NBA players who don’t follow vaccination mandates will have lockers as far aways as possible from vaccinated teammates, and will have to eat, fly, and ride buses in different sections from the rest of the team. They are required to get tested on game days and practice days, while vaccinated players will only be tested if they have symptoms or are exposed to someone who has COVID. On the other hand, if an unvaccinated player is in close contact with someone who has tested positive, he must immediately enter a seven day quarantine.


Additionally, when they aren’t playing games, NBA players who are not vaccinated must stay at their homes while in their home markets and in their hotels while on the road, unless they are completing “essential activities.”


NBA Vaccine Protocol Financial Implications on Players and Teams

NBA players who do not follow local vaccination mandates will not be paid for missed games this season.


Kyrie Irving, a player who refuses to take the vaccine for example, could forfeit about $380,000 per home game as a result of being an unvaccinated player in the state of New York. Assuming he remains unvaccinated for the remainder of the season, Irving will lose roughly $15 million.


Irving’s situation is one of the most extreme examples of financial punishment as a result of not following vaccine requirements, but there are a handful of other players who are making similar sacrifices.


Bottom Line

The NBA and NFL are encouraging their players to get vaccinated, going as far as implementing social and financial punishments for those who do not comply. Whether some athletes believe these mandates are justified or not, it is clear that the leagues are putting player safety before anything else.


Given the controversy surrounding vaccine mandates and the way the NFL and NBA have handled pushback, I pose an interesting question: What would you do if you were tasked with running a league during the pandemic?