The NFL dropped a bombshell on Thursday, threatening some drastic consequences in case its teams have outbreaks among players or other personnel not vaccinated against the Coronavirus. Potential game forfeitures were mentioned in a new memo, as were financial consequences and penalties under “conduct detrimental to the league” rules.
The new protocols triggered some instant reaction by players, fans and media members alike and not entirely positive. Among those to raise their voice was New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon.
While not explicitly critical of the league’s stance on Covid-19 vaccination, Judon did attack the players union in rather straight forward (and NSFW) fashion on social media:
The NFLPA Fucking sucks— Matthew Judon (@man_dammn) July 22, 2021
As of Friday morning, Judon’s tweet was shared almost a thousand times. It also led to a lively debate in the comments, prompting the 28-year-old to share a follow up message clarifying that his statement was not a statement on vaccination but the players union:
I didn’t say anything about the vaccine. I said the NFLPA suck. You don’t know if I’m vaccinated or not. This isn’t that argument. But thank you for your input.— Matthew Judon (@man_dammn) July 22, 2021
So, what is Judon’s problem with the union meant to represent him and other players all over the league? One specific part of the league’s new memo seems to have irritated the first-year Patriot: in case games have to be canceled due to Covid-19 outbreaks among clubs neither team’s players will be paid a salary for that week.
Judon mentioned this issue himself during an interview shared by NBC Sports’ Craig Kolodny later on Thursday.
“For every player to lose their salary, I think that’s a little... But, you know, it is what it is, and the NFL will protect itself,” he said.
Judon joined the Patriots on a four-year, $54.4 million contract earlier this offseason and as part of this deal would stand to lose over $100,000 for every contest on New England’s 17-game schedule that gets canceled this year. Seeing him speak up is therefore no major surprise, especially given that he potentially might have to lose money through no fault of his or his team’s own.
Still, the NFLPA later reminded its players that the forfeiture rules already were in place last season (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero):
If games were missed because of a Covid-19 outbreak, nobody would have gotten paid.
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 protocols we jointly agreed to helped get us through a full season last year without missing game checks and are effective, when followed.
Judon was not the only NFL player to express his thoughts on Thursday. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, for example, was openly “question[ing] my future” in the league in a since-deleted tweet. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette, meanwhile, sent and deleted a tweet in which he stated that he “can’t do” the Covid-19 vaccine.
As for Judon, he apparently has already been vaccinated. According to Patriots Inform’s Adam Bogdan, he “did confirm he got the vaccine to a few people on Twitter.”