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In letter, NFLPA directs player agents to educate clients on coronavirus risk factors

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As the scheduled start of NFL training camps gets closer, the NFL Players Association has instructed player agents to talk to all of their clients about risk factors that could make them more susceptible to severe illness as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

In a letter sent to agents Monday, which was obtained by ESPN, the NFLPA wrote, “The NFLPA is directing you to provide each of your clients with important risk factor information provided by the Centers for Disease Control that appears below, and by mid-July, you must engage each of your clients in a conversation about the vital importance of carefully reviewing this information with their personal physician. They should ask their personal doctors any and all questions they have regarding these risk factors in light of their personal medical history and their job as an NFL player. They should also discuss any risk factors with their team doctor.”

The letter provides a link to the CDC page that discusses “people of any age with underlying medical conditions” and also spells out what the conditions are that put an individual at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

They include, per the letter:

1. Chronic kidney disease

2. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

3. Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant

4. BMI of 30 or higher: Obesity

5. Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies

6. Sickle cell disease

7. Type 2 diabetes mellitus

The letter includes a second list of conditions that the CDC has determined “might” put someone at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including asthma, hypertension or high blood pressure, other immune deficiencies, liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis and Type 1 diabetes, among others.

“We want each player to be fully informed about his personal medical situation as he makes decisions about returning to play in the league and throughout the course of the season,” the letter reads. “Proactive engagement in this manner will help players achieve that goal.”

Per the new collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league, training camps may start no earlier than 47 days before a team’s first regular-season game, which makes July 28 the reporting date for most teams. The NFL said last week that it is still planning to open camps and the regular season on time, though coronavirus health and safety protocols have yet to be finalized. The NFL and the NFLPA have been in regular discussions about those protocols as well as other matters, such as what would happen to players who decided it was too risky to play and what might happen with the 2021 salary cap as a result of lost revenue in 2020.

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NFL plans to play Black national anthem before Week 1 games

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“Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” commonly known as the Black national anthem, is expected to be performed live or played before every Week 1 NFL game, and the NFL is also considering a variety of other measures to recognize victims of police brutality during the upcoming season, a source familiar with the league’s discussions told The Undefeated on Thursday.

The song would be performed before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the sources said. The NFL’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 10, with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

Having recently displayed increased awareness about the problems of systemic racism, the NFL, in collaboration with the NFL Players Association, is also considering listing the names of victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys. The NFL also may produce educational programs about victims, among other plans.

Early last month, commissioner Roger Goodell in a video admitted that the league had erred in how it handled peaceful NFL player protests of police brutality and systemic oppression, condemned racism and affirmed that Black lives matter, pledging his allegiance to the players in the battle for equal justice under the law.

Also in June, the league revealed plans to increase its social justice footprint by pledging to donate $250 million over a 10-year period.

The league hopes its efforts demonstrate “a genuine commitment to the public, players and coaches and that player voices continue to be heard,” the source wrote in a text message. “This is key to educating fans, and becoming a prominent voice in the fight to end racism.”

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Current New York guidelines would prohibit fans from attending Bills games

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The State of New York released guidelines for professional sports competition Wednesday that contained several mandatory and recommended practices for physical distancing, hygiene and workplace activity — including the prohibition of fans at games or outside the venue.

The six-page guideline included dozens of mandates for professional sports teams in the state as it enters Phase 4 of its reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Under current circumstances, the guideline mandates that teams “ensure that no live audience, fans, or spectators are allowed to attend or permitted to enter any professional sports venue, even if an outdoor venue.”

This means that if the season began today, no fans would be allowed at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills.

The prohibition of fans from games is a disappointing blow to many people hoping to watch live sports in person this fall, but the guidelines are fluid and will change as new information is presented.

“Guidelines are developed based on the latest guidance from public health officials and data, and will be updated over time based on emerging science and information,” said Jason Conwall, spokesman for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Beyond the stadium, the guideline also mandates teams “prohibit fans from congregating outside the venue and implement a security plan to safely disperse any individuals that gather outside of the venue.”

In preparation for these guidelines, the Bills announced earlier this week that season-ticket holders will have the option to opt out of their commitment for the 2020 season with an option to return in 2021, “while maintaining their account seniority and seat location.”

As for the players and team staff, the state’s guideline limits on-field access to essential personnel required to successfully stage and broadcast competition and requires extensive hygienic and social distancing practices. Teams must also implement mandatory daily health screenings for staff, athletes and venue personnel, as well as diagnostic testing for COVID-19 “for all athletes and essential team staff with regular player access 48 hours before a competition.”

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Cam Newton says his contract with Patriots is about respect, not money

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Quarterback Cam Newton explained his viewpoint of the modest one-year contract he agreed to with the New England Patriots, writing on Instagram, “This is not about money for me, it’s about respect.”

Newton, who has made more than $100 million in his 10-year career, is guaranteed just $550,000 as part of his 1-year contract with the Patriots, according to a source. His base salary is $1.05 million, which is the minimum for a player with his experience.

Newton can earn an additional $6.45 million in incentives and per-game roster bonuses. There is no provision that restricts the Patriots from assigning him the franchise tag in 2021.

CBS Sports first reported the specific terms of Newton’s deal.

Newton’s salary-cap charge is just $1.13 million, which is a key figure because the Patriots have been tight to the salary cap (in part because of a $13.5 million dead cap charge for Tom Brady). The team currently has about $200,000 of remaining cap space after Newton’s deal.

On Sunday, when ESPN first reported that Newton had agreed to a contract with the Patriots that was heavy on incentives, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was critical of the deal.

He tweeted: “How many former League MVPs have had to sign for the min? (Asking for a friend.) just ridiculous. A transcendent talent and less talented QBs are getting 15/16m a year. Disgusting.”

On Sunday, when ESPN first reported that Newton had agreed to a contract with the Patriots that was heavy on incentives, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was critical of the deal.

He tweeted: “How many former League MVPs have had to sign for the min? (Asking for a friend.) just ridiculous. A transcendent talent and less talented QBs are getting 15/16m a year. Disgusting.”



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