The NFL fined the Green Bay Packers and two of its players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, $ 300,000 each for failing to follow agreed Covid-19 protocols by the league and the players’ union.
The sanctions come about a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and his subsequent public statements espousing false and unfounded claims about Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. The comments were condemned by public health officials and some other athletes, but the league’s decision focused on keeping it by the rules.
Rodgers and Lazard, who is also unvaccinated, were penalized for attending a Halloween party even though Covid-19 protocols prohibit unvaccinated players from congregating outside team premises in a group of more than three players.
Rodgers also did not wear a mask when addressing reporters, another violation of league rules.
The team, which were made aware of the fines on Tuesday night and cooperated with the league’s investigation, were penalized much more than the players for failing to do more to control their behavior. The team did not sanction the Halloween party, for example, but were aware that it had taken place and did not discipline Rodgers or Lazard and report their violations to the league.
“We respect the League’s findings and we recognize the importance of adhering to COVID protocols to ensure the safety and health of our team and our organization,” said Mark Murphy, team president of the Packers, in a statement. communicated. “We will continue to educate the team on the importance of Protocols and remain committed to operating within Protocols.”
The league said it had found no widespread violation of the wearing of masks. But if it turns out the Packers have broken league protocols again, they could face stiffer penalties, including losing draft picks. Players have also been told they could face additional discipline if they break protocols again.
Rodgers, who is in the middle of a 10-day isolation spell, missed the team’s 13-7 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. The earliest he can return is Saturday, but like all unvaccinated NFL players who test positive for the virus, Rodgers must be cleared by a team doctor in consultation with an independent expert after isolation.
If cleared, Rodgers, 37, could play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Rodgers told the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday he was sticking to comments he made last week about why he had not been vaccinated, but admitted to misleading his status. before testing positive. Rodgers had avoided answering directly when asked if he was vaccinated, claiming he was “immune”.
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing,” Rodgers said. “I understand. And I have misled some people about my status, for which I take full responsibility, these comments. But at the end of the day, I have to stay true to who I am and what I am. I support the things I said.
The fines for Rodgers and Lazard, 25, are similar to those imposed on players last season and were in line with penalties negotiated by the NFL and the players’ union. The sanction against the Packers was largely in line with those against other teams that violated Covid-19 protocols.
Last season, the Tennessee Titans were fined $ 350,000 for their handling of an outbreak of coronavirus infections that forced the league to reschedule a series of games.
The league has not suspended anyone associated with the Titans, including their coach, general manager and players. Rather, the fine was imposed for the team’s failure to communicate training protocols and rules governing the wearing of masks at team facilities.
The league fined several coaches and teams last season after they broke their rules, penalizing head coaches seen during games not wearing masks properly $ 100,000 and their teams $ 250,000 .
Last season, the Raiders were also fined $ 50,000 after an unauthorized person entered the team’s locker room, potentially exposing players and staff to the virus. Nine players were fined $ 15,000 each for attending a charity event held inside with hundreds of people not wearing masks. A 10th player, Darren Waller, who organized the event, was fined $ 30,000.
The New Orleans Saints lost a sixth round pick in the 2022 draft after repeated violations of Covid-19 protocols last season at the height of the pandemic.