RIGHTS were not trampled. No freedoms were infringed. The NFL simply said that if an outbreak costs the league, it will also cost the players. That was me paraphrasing, but that’s essentially the jist of it. Yet over these last two days, the amount of arguing this has generated has been insane. So here’s my two cents.
The players have every right to choose whether or not they’ll be vaccinated against Covid-19. Over the last few months, the NFL as an organization has made it abundantly clear that they understand the players right to choose. That said, the NFL has also made it clear that in the event of a team-wide outbreak of the virus, games may have to be forfeited.
While no player’s right to choose was in any way infringed, each NFL owner is telling his roster:
And that is THEIR right.
If players choosing not get vaccinated leads to a team-wide outbreak, the players may have to eat not only the loss of those game-checks, but also a game loss, which will affect playoff positioning eventually.
It’s entirely possible that your favorite team could go, let’s say 8 – 9 instead of 10 – 7, due to a two week shutdown for Covid. Now imagine that just one of those forfeits was to a division rival. If your team finished second (again 8 – 9) behind a 9 – 8 division rival, and missed a playoff berth, as a fan you’d be angry. Teammates however, would be at each other’s throats. In some cases literally.
It makes me wonder how many “on the bubble” situations will come down to a vaccinated player being prioritized, over a slightly more talented player, who isn’t vaccinated. I’m of course talking back-ups, not starters. But every unvaccinated player is one who could help generate one or more automatic losses. Imagine losing games without even getting to try. That’s what this is!
This edict from the NFL will not automatically get vaccines into players arms. What it will do is call their commitment to winning into question. Not just by teammates, but when contracts have to be negotiated. When sponsors are looking for a face to endorse their offerings. When votes are cast for Canton.
The NFL recognizes that the players have the freedom to choose. However, they are also recognizing a seldom acknowledged truth about freedom. Like the coin flipped before every game, freedom is on one side and consequence is on the other. Whenever you can only see one side of the coin, it is being rested on, it is being propped up by, the side that you don’t.
I for one, am happy about this. In recent years, far too many Americans have been screaming about freedom, without really giving any thought to the responsibility that comes with wielding it. Perhaps this will help spark some well overdue conversations about it.