The NFL disputes the NFL Players Association’s contention that the league never asked for a vaccine mandate for players. It ultimately doesn’t matter, because the NFLPA wasn’t going to agree to a mandate.
“The union and player leadership did not believe mandating vaccines for players was the best approach, as JC [Tretter] has pointed out repeatedly,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “We know vaccines are effective but we also know our strict protocols — when followed — are effective, as we proved last year.”
The NFL may have wanted vaccine mandates for players, but the league knew that the union wouldn’t agree to it. The league believes that union leadership would be at risk of a revolt if vaccines became mandatory, given the number of high-profile players who have resisted vaccination. Besides, even if the NFLPA would relent, it would have required more of a concession than the league was willing to offer.
And so the league and union (whose non-player leadership definitely believes in the COVID vaccine) came up with an approach that strongly incentivizes vaccination. Vaccinated players are tested less frequently. They aren’t subject to a mandatory five-day absence after close contact with an infected person. They don’t have to wear masks in the facility or on the sideline. They can travel out of town for multiple days, since they aren’t required to be tested every day.
It has worked, to an extent. Some players continue to refuse to get the vaccination. Most of the holdouts surely believe that they aren’t subject to being cut next week. And most likely won’t be. Which means that they’ll constantly be subject to being gone for five days (for a close contact) or 10 days (for a positive test).