The NFL has a full-blown COVID outbreak. It only there was something the NFL could do to ensure that its protocols are being properly respected.
Wait, there is. With record numbers of players testing positive, the NFL can — and should — vet all vaccination cards in search of fakes.
The league says that 80 percent of vaccinated players got their vaccinations at team facilities. Those don’t need to be examined. As to the other 20 percent, an effort must be made to ensure that the vaccinations actually happened.
The NFL learned, through happenstance, that three fake cards were tendered to the Buccaneers. Without receiver Antonio Brown allegedly stiffing his former live-in chef, no one would know about it. And Brown and safety Mike Edwards would continue to be masquerading as vaccinated. (The third player, John Franklin III, was released in August.)
Where else have fake cards been used? With 31 other teams, it surely has happened. The league’s strategy for avoiding the elbow grease of checking cards has been to claim that the positive rates among those vaccinated at the facility and those vaccinated elsewhere are consistent.
That’s not nearly good enough. The league doesn’t want to take the time. The league doesn’t want to spend the money. The league doesn’t want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes.
With three in one team, how many are there? A hundred? More? And how many other vaccination cards raise obvious questions that were ignored when the cards were presented, such as why did Brown, Edwards, and Franklin get their vaccinations 80 miles away from Tampa?
It’s possible, frankly, that the league fears learning that non-players were involved in hooking players up with fake vaccination cards. It’s also possible that non-players (like coaches and executives) used fake cards, too. (For them, there was no realistic option for being unvaccinated.)
The more the league rubs that lamp, the greater the chance a pissed-off genie will fly out of it. And if the NFL were to find itself in a widespread scandal over fake vaccination cards, Congress would start sending letters, seeking documents, conducting hearings, and otherwise underscoring irresponsibility and corruption that otherwise will remain fully concealed as long as the league continues to find a way to justify doing nothing.
Basically, expecting the league to pursue the issue of fake vaccination cards aggressively is akin to asking the fox to conduct a farm-wide hen census. The league gains nothing from determining the breadth of the problem, because the league ultimately caused it through a system of protocols that created a clear temptation to get fake cards and that did little if anything to prevent fake cards from being accepted.
If the league truly cares about getting the current situation under control, it will forget about the potential consequences and commit itself to finding all fake vaccination cards, so that those players can be handled differently.
The only other alternative at this point is to wipe out the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated players, and subject all of them to the same protocols.