Story at a glance

  • If a game cannot be rescheduled during the regular 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among players who have not received the vaccine, the team with the outbreak will have to forfeit.
  • Players on both teams would lose earnings from the forfeited game, and the team responsible will have to cover financial losses.
  • The NFL postponed a series of games last season due to COVID-19 outbreaks within teams.

The NFL warned its 32 teams Thursday that COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players could force organizations to forfeit games. 

In a memo Thursday, the league notified teams that if a game cannot be rescheduled during the regular 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among players who have not received the vaccine, the team with the outbreak will have to forfeit and take a loss. 


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Players on both teams would lose earnings from the forfeited game, and the team responsible will have to cover financial losses and could be disciplined by the Commissioner’s office. 

“While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption — either due to Covid outbreaks among our clubs or outbreaks that occur within the larger community,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the memo. 

“If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection,” the memo states. 

“We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.”

The NFL last season postponed a series of games due to COVID-19 outbreaks within teams, but ultimately held every planned regular season and playoff game. 


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The league said more than 75 percent of players are in the process of becoming vaccinated and more than half of teams have vaccination rates of about 80 percent for players. 

The memo irked players who remained hesitant about receiving the vaccine, with some speaking out on social media. 

“Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL,” Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins wrote in a tweet Thursday that was later deleted. 

“Talk about getting your hand forced smh,” Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader tweeted


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Published on Jul 23, 2021