The NFL has fined the Green Bay Packers organization, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard for violating COVID-19 protocols, the league said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. The fines come nearly a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and subsequently revealed he was not vaccinated after earlier stating he had been “immunized.”
“The Club was fully cooperative in the investigation into violations of the collectively bargained NFL-NFLPA protocols,” the NFL said Tuesday.
Rodgers and Lazard each received a $14,650 penalty for attending a Halloween party. According to the NFL’s protocols, unvaccinated players cannot gather outside of the club facility in a group of more than three players. The investigation did find that both players typically followed the league’s other protocols, with the exception of wearing masks during press conferences.
“There’s no argument that Aaron Rodgers should have been wearing a mask at press conferences,” the NFL said. “The league reviewed substantial video from club facility. While the review showed a few isolated instances of Rodgers and Allen Lazard failing to wear a mask in facility, they were substantially compliant otherwise. There was no widespread or systemic mask-wearing violations.”
The Packers organization faces a $300,000 fine because it was aware of the Halloween party after it happened and “did not discipline Rodgers or Lazard and failed to report their violations to the league,” the NFL said. And in other instances, including press conferences, the Packers “failed to strictly enforce the protocols,” according to the NFL.
The league said both the team and the two players were warned that future violations could result in “escalated discipline.”
“We respect the League’s findings and we recognize the importance of adherence to the COVID protocols to keep our team and organization safe and healthy,” Mark Murphy, the Packers’ president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to educate the team regarding the importance of the protocols and remain committed to operating within the protocols.”
When asked at a press conference in August if he had been vaccinated, Rodgers replied that he had been “immunized.
Last week, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, and, days later, admitted that he had not been inoculated. In an interview on “The Pat McAfee Show”, he said that he instead underwent a homeopathic “immunization protocol” supervised by a medical team. He also said he had taken an anti-parasite drug called ivermectin, which the CDC has repeatedly opposed as a COVID-19 treatment.
On Tuesday, Rodgers said he takes “full responsibility” for his misleading comments about his vaccination status.
“I shared an opinion that is polarizing, I get it. I misled some people about my status, which I take full responsibility of those comments,” he said Tuesday on the “The Pat McAfee Show,” where he first disclosed his vaccination status last week. “But in the end, I have to stay true to who I am and what I’m about. And I stand behind the things that I said.”
Zoe Christen Jones and Victoria Albert contributed reporting.
In September, when the White House announced its long-awaited plan to welcome vaccinated European travelers, the United States was consumed by a Covid-19 surge that far outpaced Europe’s.
At that point the US rate of new cases per capita dwarfed Europe’s by nearly three to one. While European governments were plotting their roadmaps towards normality, America was battling a rise in infections and warning of pressure on hospitals.
But by Monday, when the new rules came into effect and thousands of tourists jetted across the Atlantic to American cities, the two regions had experienced a dramatic reversal in fortunes.
Europe is now the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic once again; it overtook the US case count at the end of October and is now careering towards a difficult winter.
Infections are rising in most of the countries that make up the Schengen area, the 26-country bloc where entry rules to the US have been relaxed. Travelers from the United Kingdom and Ireland were also included in the American policy shift.
“We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence,” WHO regional director Hans Kluge said last week, warning that the pace of transmission across the region was of “grave concern.”
“According to one reliable projection, if we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million COVID-19 deaths in Europe and Central Asia by the first of February next year,” Kluge warned, adding that 43 of the 53 countries on his patch could also see high or extreme stress on hospital beds.
Europe’s current wave has not resulted in as high a death rate as the US’ summer spike. But it serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of the pandemic, experts said.
Thousands of gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, salons and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles were required this week to start asking customers for proof that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, under one of the nation’s strictest vaccination rules.
The law, which the City Council approved last month, allows people with medical conditions that preclude vaccination, or a sincerely held religious objection, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours.
Officials say that the law is meant to help revive a city that has been under varied levels of restriction for more than a year and a half, and that requiring almost everyone who enters an indoor public space to be vaccinated will help prevent a surge in cases as winter approaches.
“Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown,” Nury Martinez, the president of the Los Angeles City Council, said in a statement. “The goal of this mandate is to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”