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‘I’m pro-choice’: NFL star Cole Beasley defends vaccine stance as debate around ‘mandatory’ jabs erupts

‘I’m pro-choice’: NFL star Cole Beasley defends vaccine stance as debate around ‘mandatory’ jabs erupts
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has defended his position on vaccine hesitancy, saying that he and fellow NFL players reluctant to receive the jab want to see 'proper information' ahead of a 'very personal choice'.

Last week, the NFL announced a series of strict plans designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 outbreaks on the upcoming season, mandating that 'tier one' staff members including coaches and other such personnel must receive a vaccine against the virus in a move which has already led to the departure of at least two coaches within the league. 

No such requirements exist for players, however, but league bosses have instituted a scheme which appears to heavily incentivize that they receive the vaccine – which include requirements for unvaccinated players to receive a Covid-19 every day, compared to fortnightly for vaccinated players.

Furthermore, if an unvaccinated player is deemed responsible for a Covid-19 outbreak within a team which leads to the cancellation of a game, that team will be forced to forfeit the game – with players from BOTH teams having that week's game payments withheld. 

Numerous players in the NFL have voiced their support for vaccines. The Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett was one of them on Wednesday, telling the media of the impact that a Covid-19 diagnosis had on him last season and that his decision to take the vaccine was an easy one – but he says he isn't campaigning for his teammates to take it despite his quarterback, Baker Mayfield, saying that players will have a "competitive advantage" if they receive a vaccine.

"I left it unsaid," said Garrett. "I got sick. I didn't want to get sick again. So it was kind of point-blank apparent for me."

Beasley, though, who had a breakout season for the Bills last year in which he had a career-high of 967 receiving yards, isn't so sure. The 32-year-old has been vocal on social media as to his questioning of the vaccine and also met with the media Wednesday and took a slightly different tone to that of Garrett.

"I'm not anti or pro-vax, I'm pro-choice," Beasley said, reading from a pre-prepared statement. "With that being said, the issue at hand is information being withheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with.

"When dealing with a player's health and safety, there should be complete transparency regarding information that is vital in the decision-making process. Without having all the proper information, a player can feel misguided and unsure about a very personal choice. It makes a player feel unprotected and gives concerns about future topics regarding health and our ability to make educated decisions."

Beasley continued, repeating a mantra which has been prevalent in some sections of society throughout the pandemic which says that if you stop testing, cases will plummet accordingly. 

"It's common sense that if a vaxxed or unvaxxed player is tested less frequently, the likelihood of a player being pulled for Covid drops dramatically," he said. "In regard to player safety, I'll conclude by saying we all want to be safe.

"For so many players around the NFL, safety does not solely mean avoiding the Covid virus. Our health is the now and years beyond, which we are trying to protect with our personal choice while doing all the things we did in our protocol during a very successful 2020 NFL season."

The Bills general manager Brandon Beane indicated that more than 80% of his roster have taken steps to receive the vaccine and dipped into his playbook of sporting clichés to say that his team are "focused on winning" as Beasley continues to draw heat from from all sides - including his own team's supporters - due to his stance on the Covid jab.

Ron Rivera, the head coach of the Washington Football Team, meanwhile, who underwent treatment for skin cancer last year which has left him immunodeficient took a more hardline stance when he spoke to the media this week, saying that he was "beyond frustrated" at members of his team who are opting out of the vaccine.

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"We're not where we want to be," he said after revealing that only around 50% of his roster have taken the shot.

"With the new variant, who knows?" Rivera said of the infectious Delta variant. "When I'm in a group and the group's not vaccinated or there's a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows. I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.

"We'll see how it all unfolds, and to some degree this tells us a little about us," he added.