The NFL on Wednesday sent its latest memo to all 32 teams about the importance of wearing masks, stressing safety while also warning that those who do not comply will be held accountable.
The league has seen significant progress in the wearing of face coverings since it sent its first two memos pertaining to the issue, but "wearing of protective equipment is still not universal," NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent wrote, which "creates unnecessary risk to game day participants."
"Both our own and independent medical advisors have emphasized the need to remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by agreement with the NFLPA as well as by state and local governments," Vincent wrote. "We are only through Week 3 of the season. If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus.
"Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings and observing physical distancing requirements will put the 2020 season at risk. A failure to adhere to the negotiated protocols or to government directives can have an adverse impact on both other players or staff members of your club, and of other clubs as well. Selective or inconsistent compliance threatens to undermine fan confidence in our health and safety protocols and the competitive fairness and integrity of the NFL season."
The NFL had its first legitimate concerns with the spread of the novel coronavirus within clubs earlier this week when five players and six personnel members tested positive for COVID-19 in the Titans organization, resulting in the postponement of Tennessee's Sunday game against Pittsburgh. It also forced Tennessee's most recent opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, to shut down their facility while administering additional tests to ensure the virus had not spread among its members. Minnesota will return to its facility Thursday.
Facial coverings have been seen on every NFL sideline through three weeks, ranging from masks to full face shields worn by coaches and assistants. Their use is still not up to the expectation of the league office, though, resulting in the NFL's third memo on the matter sent Wednesday.
Penalties have already exceeded $1 million in the first few weeks, and the NFL is willing to impose additional measures -- such as suspensions and forfeiture of draft choices -- in order to enforce its protocol.
"My September 14th memo stated that failure to adhere to the mask covering requirement will result in accountability measures being imposed against offending individuals and/or clubs, and fines were levied against individuals and clubs last week for violations of the Game Day Protocols," Vincent wrote. "We will continue to address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may also include suspensions of persons involved, and/or the forfeiture of a draft choice(s)."