In a memo to all 32 teams Thursday, the National Football League announced that games canceled due to a team's COVID issues will not be rescheduled and treated as forfeits.
Organizations that cause cancelations in 2021 will be responsible for resulting financial losses and could also face discipline from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as reported by Sports Illustrated.
The announcement came days after Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey alerted SEC member schools that football games would not be rescheduled this season due to COVID outbreaks.
COVID-19 resulted in a postponements during the 2020 NFL season, though all teams played the entire 16-game schedule. There were no postponements in the playoffs, and the Super Bowl was held Feb. 7 as scheduled, SI reported. The 2021 season is set to begin Thursday, Sept. 9.
The new policy brought immediate fallout, with unvaccinated Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins questioning his NFL future in a now-deleted tweet. "Never thought I'd say this," Hopkins tweeted, "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."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette tweeted "Vaccine I can't do it..." and then deleted it shortly after, according to Yahoo!Sports.
Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett has been vaccinated, but took issue with a policy the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed on last year: if a game is cancelled due to a COVID outbreak, no players get paid. As reported by Liz Roscher of Yahoo!Sports, the NFL is carrying over that policy to this year, but making a slight change. Regardless of which team they're on, players on both teams won't get paid if a game is cancelled due to a COVID outbreak among or caused by unvaccinated players.
The NFL reports that 75 percent of players have been fully or partially vaccinated, and more than half of the NFL's 32 teams have vaccination rates above 80 percent.