The National Football League (NFL) will be penalizing players who contract the coronavirus via activities deemed to be “high-risk” by the league.
Some of the penalties include team discipline and even salary cuts as outlined in the NFL memo regarding its new protocols. The memo was released by the NFL’s Players Association (NFLPA) to all contracted agents.
The final language for the agreement between the NFL and the PA is still under negotiation, but the general terms regarding the league’s response to COVID-19 will be as laid out in the memo. A number of these new rules have made it to the public domain and they do come across as very strict.
Players were already informed weeks ago on the potential fines they will face should they contract COVID-19 via activities that are deemed “reckless”. If a player with COVID-19 is found to have engaged in high-risk behaviors, then his diagnosis may no longer be counted as a football injury. In such cases, the player’s team could move the player to the non-football injury list, which would permit the team not to pay him.
Players are required to be negative twice before entering team facilities at the open of training camps. All players who test negative twice, but test positive in the future, will have the illness diagnosed as a football injury, which allows the player’s team to place him on a COVID-19-specific reserve list, where he can emerge later on after recovery.
Examples of High-Risk Conduct
Teams can challenge their players’ COVID-19 diagnosis as a football injury if the player is found to have likely contracted the coronavirus via high-risk conduct.
Some examples the NFL provided of such conduct are: entering indoor nightclubs or bars with more than 15 people for any other purpose than picking up food, attending an indoor house party, sports event, or entertainment event with more than 15 people, and any indoor religious service with more than 25% of full venue capacity.
Other notable items included in the memo are the absence of any reduction in player salaries and bonuses if the NFL season concludes as scheduled, as well as an opting-out stipend of $350,000 for players who refuse to play due to being part of a medical category that is at higher risk for COVID-19.