The NFL has fined the Green Bay Packers $300,000 and two of its players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, each $14,650 for not following the Covid-19 protocols agreed upon by the league and the players’ union.
The sentences come about a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and his subsequent public statements alleging false and unfounded claims about the Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Those comments were condemned by public health officials and some fellow athletes, but the league’s decision focused on his compliance with the rules.
Rodgers and Lazard, who is also unvaccinated, were penalized for attending a Halloween party, although Covid-19 protocols prohibit unvaccinated players from gathering outside the team facility in a group of more than three players.
Rodgers also did not wear a mask when speaking to reporters, another violation of the league’s rules.
The team, which was informed of the fines late Tuesday and cooperated with the competition’s investigation, was penalized much more than the players for failing to control their behaviour. For example, the team did not approve of the Halloween party, but was aware that it was happening and did not punish Rodgers or Lazard or report their violations to the league.
“We respect the League’s findings and recognize the importance of adherence to COVID protocols to keep our team and organization safe and healthy,” said Mark Murphy, the Packers team president, in a statement. “We will continue to educate the team on the importance of the protocols and our commitment to work within the protocols.”
The league said it found no widespread violations of mask-wearing. But if the Packers are found to have again violated league protocols, they could face more severe penalties, including the loss of draft picks. The players were also told they could take additional disciplinary action if they broke protocols again.
Rodgers, who is in the midst of a 10-day isolation period, missed the team’s 13-7 road 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 inspected after his isolation by a team doctor in consultation with an independent expert.
If released, Rodgers, 37, could play against the Seattle Seahawks in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Rodgers told the Pat McAfee Show that he stuck with comments he made last week about why he hasn’t been vaccinated, but admitted he was misleading about his status before testing positive. Rodgers had avoided answering directly when asked if he had been vaccinated, saying he had been “immunised.”
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing,” Rodgers said. “I get it. And I misled some people about my status, for which I take full responsibility, those comments. But in the end I have to stay true to who I am and what I stand for. I stand behind the things I’ve said .”
The fines for Rodgers and Lazard, 25, are similar to those imposed on players last season, and were in line with the penalties negotiated by the NFL and the players’ union. The penalty against the Packers largely matched that against other teams that had violated Covid-19 protocols.
Last season, the Tennessee Titans were fined $350,000 for their treatment of a coronavirus infection outbreak 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. Instead, the fine was imposed because the team failed to communicate training protocols and rules for wearing masks in team facilities.
The league fined several coaches and teams last season for not following the rules, with head coaches seen during games not wearing masks being fined $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 got a fine $15,000 each to attend a charity event held indoors with hundreds of people not wearing masks. A 10th player, Darren Waller, who hosted the event, was fined $30,000.
The New Orleans Saints lost a sixth round in the 2022 draft after repeated violations of Covid-19 protocols last season during the height of the pandemic.