Talked to players, agents, an athletic trainer about the vax & the competitive advantage it gives teams & players. One agent said that when he contacts teams to try to get his clients jobs, he sends photos of their vaccination cards along w/ workout vids.https://t.co/KVf8oieZR1
— Kalyn Kahler (@kalynkahler) June 22, 2021
When I was 25, if I’d had a longer economic timeline and less subconscious belief in my own immortality, I’d have made better decisions about how many pizzas I inhaled. So when it comes to young professional sports-players hesitating about getting vaxx’d, as the saying goes: I don’t approve, but I understand.
Good for Defector, doing the reporting:
Player 1, as we’ll call him, had COVID-19 last season and missed about two weeks of work. The heart palpitations he got on Day 7 of his sickness scared him so badly that he called his team’s trainer to check his vitals and calm him down. “I thought I was going to the upper room,” he said.
Player 1 didn’t end up going to heaven or the hospital. He recovered, and is now going into his second NFL season. An undrafted player, he had minimal playing time as a rookie and is fighting to earn a roster spot on a new team. When he catches a ride with a teammate to the team facility, they usually just drop him off at the testing center. They’re vaccinated; Player 1 wasn’t. Vaccinated players don’t need to go in for daily testing.
When I called Player 1 to talk about the COVID vaccine, he started off by saying that he’d decided to get it, and planned to see about signing up for the shot through his team the last week before summer break. He attended an NFLPA virtual meeting about the vaccine in February, alongside what he estimated was 1,400 other players. At the time, he said, he felt like he learned everything he needed to know, so he logged off the meeting before the NFLPA leadership took questions. His mom, a nurse, encouraged him to get the vaccine to protect his toddler-aged son. His current team has informed its players about all the incentives for vaccinated players: no masks, biweekly testing instead of daily, no mandatory quarantine for being ruled a close contact, travel allowed on the bye week. “I see my teammates, they are getting it, so it’s only right that I follow that trend too,” he said, early in our call.
But then he mentioned how he found out about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause, on an otherwise humorous Instagram meme account. “But this day there was nothing funny about this, this was like, really informative,” he told me. “It woke me up.” He was already scared of the vaccine symptoms, and he didn’t feel like he absolutely needed the vaccine because he wasn’t hanging around big groups of people anyways. He said his worst fear is getting COVID again, and he knows from his mother that the vaccine reduces the severity of COVID symptoms, but he’s bothered by the fact that vaccinated people can still get the virus. “Whether I got the shot or not, if I caught it, [I am] still going to be out [a game].”…
… [T]he science may matter less to football players than what vaccination could mean for their team and their careers. Head coach Mike Zimmer has spent time talking to players about the vaccine as a competitive advantage, information that Sugarman says often has more of an impact on players. “It is a game of availability and you want to have these guys available. … I had a lot of guys on the fence, and they would ask me, what do I get in return? Why should I do it? How will it benefit me in this building? Not so much in life, but they want to know how it was going to benefit them in the building.”
“The unvaccinated players are going to have a hard time during the season,” Zimmer told reporters last week. “They are going to be wearing masks, they’re going to have to socially distance, they’ll have daily testing. They won’t go home for bye week and have to come back here and test every day. When we go on the road, they won’t be able to go out to dinner with anybody. They’ll have to travel on busses differently and travel on planes differently, so a lot of meetings will be virtual like we have here. It’s not only the safety part of being vaccinated, but as far as being a part of a football team.”
Other things unvaccinated players have to live with: No meals with teammates, no using the sauna or steam room, no marketing appearances, no seeing friends or family on road trips, no gathering with teammates or staff outside of the facility for any reason, including football activities, no visiting clubs, bars, house parties, concerts etc., and hefty fines (up to $50,000) for violations of the protocols…
I actually find this reassuring; once the carrot/stick balance tips, most people will get vaccinated, for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reasons (I want to protect my kids / I don’t want to risk my job). And the further the core of anti-vaxxers shrinks down to the obvious nutters & cultists, the more incentives the merely hesitant will have to do the smart thing. Humans are social animals, so herd behavior is not necessarily a slur.