NFL could withhold salaries if players commit ‘high-risk conduct’ amid COVID-19 pandemic?

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As teams prepare for the 2020 NFL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, players will have even more at stake than just their health this season. Specifically, players could be at risk of losing their salary if they violate the NFL’s conduct guidelines.

NFL will discipline players for “high-risk conduct” amid COVID-19 pandemic

As part of the agreement for the 2020 season, the NFL instituted a series of policies that will dictate what players can do during their free time. Under the new policies, players will be forbidden from specific off-field activities where there are gatherings of more than 15 people.

Given the increased risk for exposure to the coronavirus in mass gatherings, the NFL outlined six off-field restrictions for players in their free time. If a player is spotted under any of the following circumstances, they could be at risk of significant discipline.

  • Attending an indoor night club with more than 15 people.
  • Visiting an indoor bar, other than to pick up food, with more than 15 people.
  • Going to an indoor concert or entertainment event with 15-plus persons present.
  • Attending a major sporting event (other than applicable NFL events) with more than 15 people there.
  • Attending an indoor religious service with more than 25% of the building at capacity.

Not only will the player be subject to potential discipline from the league, but their NFL club could use it as grounds to withhold their pay for that season.

If a player tests positive for COVID-19, the team could use contact tracing to determine where they went to during the possible window when they contracted the coronavirus. If the team believes the player got it from an event that violates the guidelines, it could then challenge to put them on the non-football injury list, freeing them of owed pay for the 2020 season.

The rule will likely draw significant pushback from players, but it highlights the risks facing the upcoming season. For there to even be a chance of a full 17-week regular season, NFL players will need to be extremely cautious when not on the field and limit how often they go out.

While it might be a lot to ask, given the lifestyle many professional athletes live, it could be the only way to preserve a full NFL season.