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Ex-NFLer, Who Is Vaccinated, Criticizes League's Memo On Unvaccinated Players

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The NFL recently informed its 32 teams that if there's an outbreak among unvaccinated players and that a game cannot be rescheduled within the normal schedule, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the game. There's more. The memo from the league also says the game will be marked as a loss, and players on both teams will not receive their weekly salaries. Former NFL player Orlando Scandrick says the NFL can't require players to be vaccinated.

ORLANDO SCANDRICK: The NFL operates under the collective bargaining agreement, so you can't really mandate it. But the memo was trying to push players in that direction.

MARTINEZ: And he was vaccinated but told us that the NFL could have taken a different approach.

SCANDRICK: Instead of penalizing players for a possible outbreak during a pandemic for not being vaccinated, I think they could have incentivized guys. If you get vaccinated, you'll get X, Y and Z. You know, they could have gave the guys a bonus for getting vaccinated - like, a small bonus, but it could have been a bonus for being vaccinated, especially when you're living in a country where they're putting Americans in a lottery for being vaccinated and giving them a chance to get a reward.

MARTINEZ: Now, you were initially vaccine-hesitant, but then you said you did your research and decided to get the shot. What changed your mind? What research did you do?

SCANDRICK: I just asked around. You know, I talked to people who got the shot. I spoke to health care providers, spoke to my doctor, got the pros and the cons, and I thought that it was something that, you know, I wanted to take a leap of faith to do it. But I do have children, and my children want me getting the vaccination. And, you know, I kind of got the vaccination for my own good, you know, for my own selfish reasons, 'cause I thought that it would help me, and I was a little bit scared of getting sick.

MARTINEZ: Should the league, though, be concerned if, say, a player that is very open against getting a vaccination goes through an entire season and maybe has fans thinking, look, well, this guy didn't get a vaccination, he seemed to be fine, and nothing seemed to happen? Do you think that there is a danger in that message being put out there for people who aren't in the NFL, who aren't NFL players, fans that maybe don't want to get a vaccination?

SCANDRICK: Did they really care about fans getting the vaccination when the Dallas Cowboys were breaking attendance records during the pandemic every week? What was the image that they were putting out there? What was the image that they were putting out in Super Bowl when they were packing more fans? What is going to be the image that they're going to be putting out here in this 2021 season once stadiums are going to be packed and a vaccination is not a requirement to enter a game?

MARTINEZ: So it sounds like, Orlando, you have a problem with NFL hypocrisy here.

SCANDRICK: I mean, that's just the NFL, you know? You're going to look at the Tampa Bay Bucs, and they're going to have a sellout, and there are not going to be any masks on these fans.

MARTINEZ: I saw a player - a former player, Michael Irvin, he played for the Cowboys, Hall of Famer - who has said that those who refuse to be vaccinated just don't want to win badly enough. Orlando, do you think that there's something to that?

SCANDRICK: No. I mean, I love Michael Irvin, but I'm going to respectfully disagree 'cause I think if you went in the locker room and you told 53 players on a team, if you get vaccinated, you're going to win a Super Bowl, I think you would see 53 guys - maybe 52, maybe 51 guys - vaccinated. There's no correlation to wanting to win and being vaccinated because you can still get sick and still end up in a COVID protocol, being vaccinated. You look at what's going on in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. All of these people are getting sent home from the Olympics, and they're all vaccinated.

MARTINEZ: That was former NFL player Orlando Scandrick. Orlando, thank you very much for joining us.

SCANDRICK: Thanks for having me on. And everyone out there, stay safe.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.