The NFL said in a memo on Thursday that teams that experience an outbreak of COVID-19 during the 2021 season may be forced to forfeit a game.
The memo, obtained by NFL Network, the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated, indicates that if a game is postponed or canceled over a team's COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players and that game cannot be rescheduled within the 18-week regular season, that team will be forced to forfeit the game.
The memo also notes that should a game be forfeited due to a COVID-19 outbreak, neither team's players would receive their salary for that week.
The memo also notes that should vaccinated players test positive for the virus, the league will "attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."
Here’s more from today’s memo, which also says the team responsible for a canceled game because of an outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff will be responsible for financial losses and subject to potential discipline from the commissioner. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Q86a2WcG1K— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 22, 2021
The league also told teams on Thursday that vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic can return to regular activities after negative tests on back-to-back days. Unvaccinated players are still required to remain in isolation for at least 10 days before returning to team activities.
Thursday's memo was the latest step the NFL has taken to encourage players and coaches to get vaccinated. In June, the league and the players union agreed to rules that lifted many COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated players but kept such limits in place for unvaccinated players.
According to the agreed-upon guidelines, unvaccinated players will be subject to daily COVID-19 testing, continued mask use in facilities and during training, and off-the-field travel restrictions. Vaccinated players are not required to follow those guidelines.
The NFL completed its entire regular and postseason in 2020 amid the pandemic without canceling any games. However, according to Sports Illustrated, 18 games were rescheduled due to COVID-19 outbreaks. In addition, several teams last year were put at competitive disadvantages when outbreaks caused entire position groups to be sidelined.