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The NFL Players Association stopped short of issuing a statement in response to comments from Bills G.M. Brandon Beane regarding his inclination to cut players who opted not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, since the NFL spoke to Beane about his remarks.
At Monday’s annual Sports Lawyers Association conference, NFLPA executive DeMaurice Smith chimed in on Beane’s remarks.
“When a General Manager speaks out and says something that is not only inconsistent with league policy, but just has a rank disregard for the rights of our players, I don’t know any other way of characterizing that other than just the stupidity that underlines it,” Smith said, via Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, also speaking at the conference, did not mention the Bills or Beane when confirming the rules that apply. “Our labor agreement is pretty clear on what grounds you can and can’t release a player for, and there is not a requirement that players be vaccinated,” Pash said.
The reality is that Beane got in trouble for saying the quiet part out loud. With clear incentives available for players who are vaccinated, teams will know which players have and haven’t gotten it. If a G.M. who prefers to have as many vaccinated players on the team as possible allows that to become a factor in the assessment of the close calls on the roster without saying or doing anything to generate evidence of it, how would the league or the union prove that it happened?
For players deciding whether to get vaccinated, it’s important to understand this reality. Teams will know if you haven’t been vaccinated, and it’s entirely possible that your coach, G.M., or owner will hold that fact against you when it’s time to trim the roster. As long as they keep quiet about it, there’s really nothing anyone can do to stop it from happening.