Justin Bullock, FISM News
The NFL has mandated that all Tier 1 staff for professional football teams be vaccinated or provide a legitimate exemption to receiving the vaccine. The players themselves are not classified as Tier 1 staff but coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers, and scouts are all considered to be Tier 1 staff. Thus far two coaches have lost their jobs due to the new rules, the first is Rick Dennison, the assistant head coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and the second is the New England Patriots’ co-offensive line coach, Cole Popovich.
In Dennison’s case the Vikings said that he was unable to obtain a vaccine exemption for religious or medical reasons but still refused to take the vaccine. The precise details in Popovich’s case are still unknown but it is being reported that it also has to do with the new vaccine policy. The loss of both coaches will negatively impact their teams as pre-season training is just about to begin.
The Viking’s loss of Dennison is of particular note as he was a 27-year coaching veteran on a new Viking’s coaching staff that is otherwise relatively inexperienced. In particular, Gary Kubiak’s son, Klint Kubiak, is replacing his father as the Viking’s new Offensive Coordinator. This season will be Klint’s first time as a key coach on any NFL team and it was hoped that Dennison would help Klint transition into his new role and serve as a mentor. Instead, Dennison is out of a job and Phil Rauscher, the former assistant offensive line coach for the Vikings, will replace Dennison as assistant head coach.
Meanwhile the Patriots’ loss of Popovich is likely not to be as impactful as the Viking’s loss of Dennison. Popovich is distantly related to the San Antonio Spur’s legendary basketball coach Gregg Popovich. Cole Popovich has coached in New England for seven years mostly serving in minor roles. Last season he served as one of two offensive line coaches.
This news comes amid controversy over how much oversight employers can have over their employees health care. Several businesses have announced similar COVID-vaccination requirements including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Delta. Law experts seem to agree that employers are within their rights to require that their employees are vaccinated as long as there are religious and disability exemptions. However, beyond the legality of requiring vaccinations, the bigger question becomes ethically should employers require the vaccine.