NFL Punts on Religious Liberty, Threatens to Fine Players for Attending Church

To ostensibly see the return of professional football this fall, the National Football League (NFL) has agreed to a deal which prohibits players from attending a church service if attendance is more than one-quarter of the building’s capacity. The NFL negotiated the deal with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the labor union that represents the professional football athletes.

Mike Florio, a writer for Pro Football Talk, reports:

“Per multiple sources, the deal specifically prohibits players from engaging in certain behaviors this season. Players cannot attend indoor night clubs, indoor bars (except to pickup food), indoor house parties (with 15 or more people), indoor concerts, professional sporting events, or indoor church services that allow attendance above 25 percent of capacity.” (emphasis added)

According to Florio, if a football player violates the rules, they can be fined. “Moreover, if they test positive after engaging in prohibited activities, they will not be paid for the games they miss. Also, future guarantees in their contracts would be voided,” Florio writes.

The deal between the NFL and the NFLPA was crafted with the goal of ensuring football season can move forward safely during the pandemic.

The NFL’s chief medical officer recently expressed optimism that the NFL season can progress, even amidst the age of COVID.

“I remain cautiously optimistic because we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and energy with these protocols and preparing, trying to mitigate risk to the best that we can,” Dr. Allen Sills recently told the Houston Chronicle.

The league has taken a different approach to reopening than many college athletic associations, including the Division I Ivy League teams which decided to have no collegiate sports competitions this fall.

So far, no player has gone on record to express concerns about the deal, and it’s unclear how many players’ spiritual practices could be impacted by the deal’s limitation on church attendance.

The league has been mired in controversy over the past several years.

In 2017, following the beginning of the dispute over kneeling during the national anthem, average viewership of the sport’s games dropped nearly 10%, though that has recovered in recent years.

And earlier this year, star Saints quarterback Drew Brees took heat from all sides after originally stating in an interview that he would “never agree” with kneeling for the national anthem.

Brees quickly apologized and filmed a lengthy Instagram video asking viewers to, “look me in the eyes and see how sorry I am.”

The NFL’s net worth totals at least $91 billion according to some estimates.

You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary

Photo from Jamie Lamor Thompson /


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