Why Are So Many NFL Players Dragging Their Feet on Getting Vaccinated?

When training camp starts, how many players will have received their jab?

NFL logo on a piece of clothing on a football field
Why won't NFL players get vaccinated?
dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

We’re less than six weeks away from the first NFL training camps, and society as a whole continues to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as a new Yahoo Sports article points out, the league is apparently having trouble convincing some of its players to get vaccinated ahead of the season.

Team owners, the league office and the players’ union are all reportedly doing their best to convince players to get the jab, but because the NFL cannot require them to get vaccinated, some are skeptical that teams will be able to reach their goal of having 85% of players and staff vaccinated by the time the season kicks off. (Many have had access to the vaccine for several months now, and if they haven’t already gotten their shots at this point, it seems unlikely that they plan on doing so.)

“We’ve encouraged players to get vaccinated from Day 1,” union executive director DeMaurice Smith told the publication. “It’s not really a question of my feelings. It’s a question of making sure the players have access to all the information. Their ability to reach out and call me — I will tell them that immediately after calling me, I send them to Thom Mayer, our medical adviser or one of our other specialists. But we’ve urged players to get the vaccine. We’ve urged them to make sure that they just make a decision that’s informed.”

Several teams have brought in specialists to explain how safe and effective the COVID-19 vaccine is to players, but there’s still a long way to go. “I’ve seen where guys are saying [to the media] that they want more information on vaccines — which I think is a fair approach,” one anonymous GM told Yahoo. “But in terms of our staff working to inform [players] versus them coming to us for information, we’ve had more players asking questions about [painkiller] Toradol in the last week than we have about vaccines. I think some guys don’t want to be engaged on it, honestly. So we’re working on how to resolve that, how to get them what they need and what to do if we can’t reach that 85 percent. That’s going to be a project for some of us right up to [training] camp.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold and Washington defensive end Montez Sweat are two of the latest players who have spoken out about their hesitancy to get the vaccine. “I’m not a fan of it,” Sweat said earlier this week. “I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff. I’m not a fan of it at all. … I haven’t caught COVID yet so I don’t see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID.”

That is, of course, very dumb, and it’s worth reiterating here that the COVID-19 vaccine has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. Getting as many players vaccinated as possible will help teams reach that 85% threshold in order to relax their COVID-19 restrictions (possibly giving them a slight competitive advantage over teams that still have to adhere to said restrictions), but ultimately, players shouldn’t need that incentive to get vaxxed. Shouldn’t protecting yourself and everyone you come into contact with from a deadly virus be reason enough?

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