More and more companies (including the league office) have begun to require COVID-19 vaccinations, given both the struggle to get people to choose to take it and the ever-changing circumstances regarding a pandemic that is becoming endemic.
Months ago, the NFL and NFL Players Association decided that players would not be required to get vaccinated. Circumstances have changed since then. Now, given the close quarters that players occupy both on and off the field, and in light of the manner in which the Delta variant is rampaging through a nation with too many occupants who foolishly fear neither fear nor anything else, it makes sense to take a step back and ask this question: Should the league and the union agree that vaccine will be mandatory?
One source on the management side of the ledger says it won’t happen and can’t happen, that the union would never approve of it. However, with more than 90 percent of players already vaccinated, a vote of all players or all player representatives or the executive committee possibly would result in a decision to agree to make vaccinations mandatory.
The union recently suggested daily testing for vaccinated players. It’s a safety measure. Requiring vaccination is another safety measure.
Unions are split on the matter of mandatory vaccines. The AFL-CIO supports vaccine mandates. Other unions favor preserving the ability of the rank-and-file to choose whether to be vaccinated.
The NFLPA staked out a middle ground, insisting on no mandate but agreeing to a host of incentives and disincentives aimed at getting players to choose to get vaccinated. Even with so many players already vaccinated, it’s likely that the NFLPA would not choose to change course.
Now, as the pandemic once again rages and the nation lacks the kind of leadership (from either major party) to successfully get enough people to choose to get vaccinated, a decision by the NFL and NFLPA to make the vaccine mandatory could prompt other companies to do the same. It also could prompt other Americans who are vaccine-hesitant (or vaccine-no-way-in-hellitant) to finally do the right thing.
It remains unlikely, and that’s unfortunate. As the source noted, “a ton” of star players are opposed to the vaccine. Even if it ever would have made sense to force them to choose between getting vaccinated or not playing, it’s too late to change course now. It would create too big of a mess, and it potentially would result in multiple high-profile players walking away from the 2021 season.
So it does indeed seem to be too late to make vaccinations mandatory. Which means that someone else needs to stand up and provide the kind of leadership necessary to get us through what hopefully will be the strangest days of our lifetimes. Because it’s hard to imagine them getting any stranger.
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