NFL Player Says He’d Rather Retire Than Get a COVID Vaccine

Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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NFL wide receiver Cole Beasley would rather quit playing professional football than get a COVID-19 vaccine, or follow protocols for unvaccinated players.

Beasley, 32, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, said Friday that he wouldn’t get vaccinated, even after the NFL and the players’ union rolled out new protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players. Rules for unvaccinated players include daily COVID testing, mask requirements, and travel restrictions. 


“I may die of covid, but I’d rather die actually living,” Beasley said in a tweet.

The first violation of the protocols will result in a $50,000 fine, according to the NFL Network

"I'll play for free this year to live life how I've lived it from day one,” Beasley said. “If I'm forced into retirement, so be it. I've enjoyed the times I've had," Beasley said. 

He also indicated that he wouldn’t comply with those protocols if he didn’t feel it necessary. "I have family members whose days are numbered. If they want to come see me and stay at my house then they are coming regardless of protocol," Beasley said.

All available evidence has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective in preventing spread of the virus. And given ongoing concerns about the Delta variant and the risk of prolonging the pandemic, governments and businesses have been encouraging people to get the shot. 

“It is a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people,” President Joe Biden said last week. 


Beasley drew backlash last week for dismissing the NFL’s new protocols. His statement appeared to be a reaction to criticisms against him.

“The players association is a joke,” he said Thursday, referring to the NFL players’ union. “Everyone gives me the 98 percent of people who are vaccinated don’t get covid again. The odds of me getting in the NFL and playing for 10 years are lower than that and I’m here.”

Beasley started his career with the Dallas Cowboys and has been a member of the Buffalo Bills since 2019, when he signed a 4-year deal worth $29 million. He’s expected to make as much as $6 million next year, according to USA Today

At least one of Beasley’s teammates, lineman Jon Feliciano, added to Beasley’s initial tweet and said that the NFL was unfairly trying to force coaches into getting vaccinated, though he clarified in another tweet that he’s been vaccinated himself.

Beasley is not the only professional athlete who’s expressed hesitancy to get the vaccine. Chicago Cubs players Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward both said earlier this month they wouldn’t get the vaccine, with Rizzo telling reporters that “it’s the right decision for me and my family right now.” 


After Danish soccer star Christian Eriksen collapsed during a Euro match against Finland earlier this month and was rushed to the hospital, misinformation was spread by anti-vaxxers that Eriksen’s collapse was the result of the vaccine. But the club where Eriksen plays professionally said later that he hadn’t been vaccinated, and it was later determined his collapse was the result of a cardiac arrest.

But the pandemic itself continues to impact the world of professional sports, as NBA player Chris Paul was forced to miss crucial games for the Phoenix Suns after being placed into the league’s health and safety protocols. Paul was vaccinated in February but was placed into the protocols as the result of a COVID test, according to Arizona Sports 98.3 FM. Paul has been symptom-free, Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday

Cases of people who received the vaccine and still contracted COVID are exceptionally rare. Out of more than 144 million Americans who’ve received vaccinations, the CDC has reported just 3,538 hospitalizations and 671 deaths of vaccinated people who later tested positive for the virus. (Of those, more than a quarter of the hospitalizations and nearly 20 percent of deaths were asymptomatic or unrelated to COVID-19, according to the CDC.) 

So far, 55 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated with either the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the New York Times. Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 12. A fourth vaccine developed by Novavax will be submitted to the FDA for approval in the next quarter, the company said last week. 

In contrast to Beasley, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is working with the pharmacy giant Walgreens to encourage vaccinations, the Kansas City Star reported Sunday. Kelce described himself as initially reluctant to receive the vaccine. 

“I was definitely hesitant, but it’s only here to help us, and I’m here to just spread the word to try and encourage everybody to get it,” Kelce said.