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Vaccines vs. Professional Athletes: Each Major League’s Covid Protocol

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Mixing Covid-19 and any profession involving contact is destined for trouble, especially among fans. With the fan base for professional sports already upset at the virus and how it has affected players, regulators have thought long and hard about how to limit the spread of Covid-19 through sports. President Joe Biden’s newest mandate requires vaccines for all players or weekly rapid tests. From there, leagues and teams have taken things into their own hands as extra precautions.
The NBA, NFL, and MLB have eased the regulations set on players and staff. They are still encouraged to get vaccines and show the benefits of not having to wear a mask or limit themselves to who they see. On the other hand, if not vaccinated, players are subject to daily tests, masks everywhere they go, and are required to only socialize with family and friends that have had a negative covid test 72 hours within the visit.
In the NFL, there is no current vaccine mandate. The league sent out a memo in July stating that if a National Football League game cannot be played due to an unvaccinated player that caused an outbreak and the game cannot go on, that it would be credited to the opposing team. In addition, neither team would be paid for the game and the team that had the outbreak would then have to cover financial losses. It also pointed out that if a player should contract the virus, they cannot play by any circumstances until receiving two negative Covid tests consecutively. Recently, Green Bay Packers’ Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers was fined and forced to miss a game when he contracted Covid-19 a few weeks ago, after never mentioning he was unvaccinated since he is allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine.
In MLB, vaccinated players and staff are able to go maskless in full duration of their games and when attending restaurants. Those unvaccinated in Major League Baseball are still required to wear masks. The MLB recently announced their personal policy that if a team’s tier 1 individuals including managers, training staff, and coaches are 85% vaccinated as a whole, they no longer have to maintain social distancing. 22 out of the 30 league teams have since reached that percentage.
Over 95% of players in MLS are vaccinated, although they are not required. However, Major League Soccer does require its league-office employees that work on-site or travel for or with the team to be vaccinated. Each of the 27 teams have slightly different protocols, but all perform covid tests multiple times a week, vaccinated or not.
The NHL has arguably one of the most strict protocols for unvaccinated players. Those unvaccinated are confined to their hotel room without visitors, practice, and games. They cannot go to public restaurants, bars, pools or gyms. Unless a player is not getting the vaccine due to a religious or medical reason, if contracted with Covid-19, they lose pay for each day they miss. Due to these restrictions, most of the National Hockey League players have been vaccinated.
Lastly, NBA’s protocols. Much like the NHL, the National Basketball Association limits many things unvaccinated players can do. For the unvaccinated, limits on attending bars, restaurants, clubs, et cetera. In addition, vaccinated and unvaccinated players are not permitted to eat in the same room and are required to maintain social distancing, including a separation in space in locker rooms and hotel rooms. On days of practice, games, or traveling, they will be given rapid tests in order to be in contact with their own team or others. However, now 90% of players are vaccinated, leaving these restrictions to not too many players.
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