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NFL requires officials and gameday staff to be vaccinated

The mandate applies unilaterally to the gameday staff.



While players and coaches have made their own personal decisions as to whether they receive the covid vaccine, the NFL has made it mandatory for the officials and league employees to be vaccinated.

The vaccine mandate applies unilaterally to the gameday assistants. The GDAs include the clock operators, replay technicians, the player-to-coach communication operator (who turns off the headset prior to the snap), and the chain crew. GDAs are hired by the officiating department on 1-year contracts, so anyone who refused to get vaccinated would not be contracted to work 2021. In fact, sources tell Football Zebras that there were some that gave up their longtime gig because of their convictions on mandated vaccination. We do not have any information on an on-field official refusing to be vaccinated, either resigning or remaining on the staff.

The league’s job posting portal even explicitly states that employment is contingent on vaccination with very few exceptions.

Considering the substantial and growing body of evidence that vaccinations remain the most effective protection against the spread the COVID-19, we require that members of our NFL workforce be fully vaccinated. Exceptions are available only for those who need an accommodation for a qualifying disability or sincerely held religious belief or practice.

The league has said 99% of their 121 officials on staff are vaccinated, as reported by the Associated Press.

The league also slightly modified the some of the chain crew functions to limit the number of people on the sidelines, even though they are required to be vaccinated. There are typically 7 members of the chain crew: 2 on the primary chains, 2 down boxes on either side of the field, a secondary line-to-gain stake, a positioning clip operator and someone in charge of the line-to-gain mat that functions as a visible stripe. The final two positions are being covered by the primary chain crew. When a team gets a first down, the front-stake operator will pick that up and move it. Also, once the chains are set, the down box operator will hand the down box to the back-stake operator to set and record the positioning clip. The clip is affixed at a 5-yard stripe so that the chains can easily be reset, but the down-box operator in many cases is doing this while the first-down play is being run. After setting and writing down the clip position, the operator retrieves the down box, in some cases just in time to advance it to second down or to move the chains again.

So, while some players contemplate the restrictive policies for nonvaccination, the officiating staff is largely unaffected.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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