The new policy of the NFL, widely reported in recent weeks, hits players and teams exactly where it hurts.
If there is an outbreak among unvaccinated players, you forfeit the game and face further fines, and none of the players on either team gets paid.
First, you lose. Second, you — and every one of your peers — has to pay for it. Sounds right.
Think about the peer pressure. I like that. And the immediacy of the penalty.
There has to be a way to adapt the NFL model and apply it to the “freedom fighters” who still won’t get vaccinated.
According to press reports, the memo sent to all the teams states that roughly one-quarter of all NFL players have not been vaccinated. All the teams now have more than 50% of their players vaccinated, a milestone the teams in Washington and Indianapolis barely made in time for the memo.
“There is no right to postpone a game.”
Last year, there might not have been “a right,” but the powers at the top of the NFL managed to reschedule a dozen games, creating a schedule that was widely viewed as a nightmare.
This time, the league is taking a hard line.
Last year, COVID-19 was something you could contract in the community. It was no one’s fault that they were sick with COVID-19, unless they were in the Rose Garden or a Jewish synagogue or a church full of singers, in which case we might question their judgment.
This year, the drug stores are giving out gift certificates to those who come in for COVID-19 shots. There are same-day appointments all over town. Things are back to normal in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium, where the endless lines that snake around are not for shots but for the exits.
I sympathized with those who pointed out that there were extra obstacles for racial minorities who had faced discrimination and deportation and are now being asked to trust government. Fair enough.
But with the delta variant making people quite sick — filling hospitals at a time when caregivers have been on combat duty for a year and a half, infecting children who are too young to be vaccinated and those immunocompromised adults and others who have been vaccinated — enough is enough.
This is no longer about trusting government. You can mistrust government. Will you also mistrust science? Will you mistrust your own doctor? Hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated and are alive because of it.
Those who refuse to be vaccinated, who, like one NFL star, consider this a matter of freedom, are free to die. No one is talking about making it a crime. But as a condition of employment in both the public and private sector, requiring a vaccination is surely a compelling state interest and within the power reserved to most employers. You can’t start school without getting the required vaccines. Why should you be able to restart school without them? Vaccinations are required by the military, with good reason.
In some cases, frequent testing is an alternative. In some cases, it isn’t. There is no right to serve in the Army if you aren’t qualified, and qualified today means vaccinated. Same for public workers, university staff and students, and public school teachers. Otherwise, you are a danger to all those who rely on you, to your family and to your community.
There is no right to a stimulus check. Or any of the new benefits that are contained in the 2,700-page bill Congress is about to pass. Or publicly funded unemployment checks and small-business loans and maybe even new tax credits.
The 30% of Americans who refuse to be vaccinated for no good reason will cost us billions of dollars in health care costs and lost productivity, not to mention the lives lost.
The courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s use of the carrot and the stick. And never has there been such an obvious carrot to attach a stick to than the public health emergency we face.
We all need to take a page from the NFL and make the anti-vaxxers responsible for at least some of the costs they impose on the rest of us. It is, very simply, a matter of life and death.