NFLPA President criticizes league on vaccine wristbands

FILE - Cleveland Browns offensive lineman JC Tretter runs during an NFL football practice at the team training facility in Berea, Ohio, in this Tuesday, June 15, 2021, file photo. Tretter is president of the NFLPA. I know we have learned to work in a very difficult environment, and we will do it again," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "That is one of the things we learned ... hearing clubs and the NFLPA saying our relationship has never been stronger. I interpret that as a trust that has been built here that will take us forward and will be the long-lasting legacy of this season. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File) (David Dermer, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

CLEVELAND – Browns center and NFLPA President JC Tretter feels the NFL is trying to shame players by urging teams to require vaccinated and unvaccinated players to wear different colored wristbands.

He called the idea “nonsensical.”

Tretter, who took office last year as the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early stages, said Thursday he's thankful the Browns didn't adopt the wristband policy and he blasted the league for some other measures.

Tretter said it's easy to identify who isn't vaccinated because those choosing not to get the shots are required masks and follow other protocols.

"They say they need a differentiator between unvaccinated and vaccinated players, we already have a differentiator," Tretter said. “The unvaccinated players need to wear masks. No other sports leagues use any sort of scarlet marking or helmet decal or wristband because they know it’s not necessary and the teams know who’s vaccinated and not vaccinated."

But the NFL explains the wristband policy is designed to help the club or the league more easily identify if a player who is not vaccinated was not wearing a mask.

In a memo sent earlier this month to the 32 franchises, the league noted that several teams had inquired about best practices for monitoring protocol compliance at the facility, particularly given the protocol modifications for fully vaccinated individuals.

“Please note that beginning at the start of training camp," the memo said, "clubs will be required to develop a method to visually identify fully vaccinated Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals. We recommend utilizing color coded wristbands or credentials, however, clubs are free to implement other methods.”

Tier 1 and Tier 2 covers team personnel who have direct contact with players.

Tretter feels the league wanted to guilt players into getting the vaccine.

“So what it really comes down to is the NFL wanted to put a policy in place to try to shame unvaccinated players publicly about their status and make that known to everybody on the field, and that shouldn’t be the case because it’s unnecessary,” he said. "We all know who’s vaccinated, who’s not and it doesn’t need to be a scarlet marking on peoples’ helmets or wrists.”

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said the team decided against the wristbands, which are being worn at some other training camps.

“We’re not dividing the team over this issue,” Stefanski said.

Tretter was previously critical about the league recently issuing a memo telling teams that if there is a virus outbreak among unvaccinated players, games will be forfeited and players will not be paid. The NFLPA said when that policy was announced that “the same basic rules applied last year.”

“The only difference this year is the NFL’s decision to impose additional penalties on clubs which are responsible for the outbreak and the availability of proven vaccines,” the NFLPA told its members in an email. “The protocols we jointly agreed to helped get us through a full season last year without missing game checks and are effective, when followed.”

Tretter said with cases increasing in some areas around the country due to the Delta variant, it's essential for the league and union to cooperate.

“Last year it wasn’t perfect, but we worked well together because we needed to and because we needed everybody to buy in and do the right things in order to get through a season,” Tretter said. "This year, this is not going to be easy again. We’re going to need to really rely on a lot of things we did last year and that continues with meeting the protocols but also the way we worked together.

"We don’t want to lose checks, we want to keep people healthy, they don’t want to lose revenue and they want to keep people healthy. So we have the same goals, it’s about executing that.”


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed.


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