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NFL Fines Unvaccinated Bills Players For Covid Protocol Violations

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 26, 2021

Topline

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie posted a letter Thursday from the NFL detailing his $14,650 fine for violating the league’s mask policy for unvaccinated individuals, providing insight into the NFL’s stringent Covid protocols despite no official vaccination mandate.

Key Facts

Thursday morning, McKenzie tweeted an image of a letter he received from the NFL fining him for not wearing a mask on multiple occasions Wednesday in the Bills’ Orchard Park, N.Y., team facility. 

Fellow unvaccinated Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley tweeted “they got me too,” indicating he also received a fine for violating protocols.

Beasley is currently away from team facilities on the Covid/Reserve list after coming into close contact with an athletic trainer that later tested positive for Covid, and has been a long-time vocal critic of the NFL’s Covid policies, saying in July, “I’m not going to take meds for a leg that isn’t broken…. I may die of Covid, but I’d rather die actually living.”

McKenzie’s $14,650 fine, seemingly confirming an ESPN report that unvaccinated players will be fined that amount for any violation of Covid protocols, will cover more than 1% of his total 2021 salary of $1.127 million.

In a Tuesday press conference, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the team is about 80% vaccinated, a far cry from teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, who became the first team to be 100% vaccinated.

Key Background

Though the NFL has not set an official mandate, the league has strongly incentivized players to get vaccinated and pushed the vaccine’s safety. Covid protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players differ greatly, as unvaccinated individuals are subject to a variety of heightened policies, such as receiving daily tests, masking in team facilities and not being able to leave their hotel rooms during road trips. In July, the NFL announced that teams may need to forfeit games should there be a Covid outbreak among unvaccinated players, further upping the ante for teams to get their players vaccinated. Beasley and McKenzie’s teammate, Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins, spent four days in the hospital this summer battling Covid, becoming infected shortly after receiving his second dose of the vaccine and declaring his Covid battle “one of the lowest points that I’ve ever been.”

Chief Critic

Ron Rivera, head coach of the Washington Football Team, has been outspoken about his frustration with some players rejecting the vaccine. Earlier this month, Rivera said about the hesitancy among players, “It’s unfortunate but it’s a microcosm of our society right now. It’s befuddling when you have a chance to have your freedom and you’re not taking advantage of it because of one reason or another, and to me, to not take advantage of it because of the disinformation.”

Big Number

92%. The NFL player vaccination rate stood at 92% as of last week, per ABC News.

Further Reading

Buffalo Bills receivers Isaiah McKenzie, Cole Beasley fined for COVID-19 protocol violations (ESPN)

NFL Encountering Substantial Vaccine Hesitancy Among Players (Forbes)

NFL Raises Pressure On Players To Get Vaccinated: Teams May Be Forced To Forfeit Games Due To Covid Outbreaks (Forbes)

The NFL’s Unofficial Vaccine Mandate (The Wall Street Journal)

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