Following the loosening of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) mask guidelines earlier this week in which fully vaccinated people “no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting” unless required by specific regulations, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the matter.
The thread began with Beasley responding to a CNN tweet that quoted presidential medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors, to which Beasley responded “I do that without being vaccinated. Is this illegal now?” Beasley then proceeded to provide general responses to the waves of criticism he received as a result of his original tweet. He stated that he is considered “ignorant” by everyone who holds a different opinion simply by virtue of not agreeing with the masses. Beasley then questioned why those who are vaccinated worry that he is not considering that the vaccine protects those who have it from the possibility of contracting Covid-19 (which he said is a “serious question”). He eventually stated that he isn’t an “anti-vaxxer,” but he is very against people on Twitter “ridiculing and bullying people … into getting [the vaccine] or thinking the same way about it.”
Beasley joins Bills star quarterback Josh Allen as the second prominent member of the team to express skepticism regarding receiving the vaccine. In early April, Allen’s comments on Kyle Brandt’s podcast sparked a similar wave of controversy on the internet. Though not taking a definitive stance one way or another, Allen expressed hesitancy and stated that he was undecided on whether to get vaccinated or not. Both Allen and Beasley seem to be somewhat uneducated on the issue, with Allen himself admitting “I haven’t been paying attention to it as much as maybe I should have.”
According to numerous tweets from Rachel Bush, the wife of Bills safety Jordan Poyer, the “majority” of Bills players share Allen and Beasley’s vaccine skepticism. Bush has made herself extremely clear to be against the vaccine multiple different times on Twitter and is actively against Erie County’s decision to require all fans in attendance of Bills home games for the upcoming season to be fully vaccinated. From their actions on Twitter, some teammates are certainly on the same wavelength as Beasley and Allen — rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis voiced his support with a comment on one of Beasley’s more contentious tweets and offensive lineman Jon Feliciano retweeted one of Beasley’s tweets.
Though freedom of choice and expression is at the forefront of their argument and players are certainly free to voice their opinions and choose not to get vaccinated — the NFL is not making the vaccine mandatory for players and staff members of NFL teams — opinions of this nature certainly have consequences. Fully vaccinated players and staff members no longer need to wear masks in daily activities like they did last season. The Bills front office and upper management have set the example for the team, with Bills head coach Sean McDermott, general manager Brandon Beane, and owners Terry and Kim Pegula all receiving the vaccine, which allowed them to appear mask-less in their draft room during the NFL draft just a few weeks ago.
The NFL will likely follow the MLB’s model of relaxing restrictions for teams that have met a certain percentage of players and staff who have been vaccinated — the current threshold for the MLB is 85 percent. Teams with fewer people vaccinated, therefore, will still have similar protocols and guidelines as the previous season, which could hinder their efficiency in practices and team meetings, not to mention that players put themselves at a higher risk of contracting the virus and missing games by choosing not to receive the vaccine. Beane actually stated that it would be advantageous for a team to cut unvaccinated players for this very reason, though the NFL quickly reached out to Beane to inform him that players cannot be cut solely based on their vaccination status.
Skepticism from important players like Allen and Beasley also impedes the public effort to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The Bills are certainly not the only team whose players feel hesitant towards the vaccine, but they have the most prominent players making statements, which has made them the face of the issue. For NFL players who so often listen to medical professionals regarding injuries, it is ironic that they openly question medical experts about the Covid vaccine. While Allen and Beasley’s comments come from a place of naivete, they underscore the sentiment of millions of citizens across the country regarding the vaccine.