While there’s been a lot of discussion about sports leagues’ pushes to encourage vaccinations and a lot of rebellion from athletes determined not to get vaccinated for one reason or another, there have been many stricter “must be vaccinated” rules for media members hoping to interact with athletes in person. We’ve seen that with MLB pre-game interviews, with NFL protocols for this upcoming season, and now with some college football protocols, especially at private schools. Earlier this month, Notre Dame mandated full vaccinations for those looking to cover its football team in person, and Wake Forest (football coach Dave Clawson is seen above at last week’s ACC Kickoff) has now joined that group:
Wake Forest, which requires all students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 upon return in the fall, will require every member of media that participates in any in-person media opportunity at Wake to be fully vaccinated
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 26, 2021
Whether this will become widespread in college athletics remains to be seen. A few coaches (such as Washington State’s Nick Rolovich) have been outspoken in a refusal to get vaccinated. But many coaches have not only been vaccinated themselves, but have also done a lot to promote that amongst their teams (important considering some conferences declaring that games lost to COVID-19 outbreaks with one team will be forfeited). Those coaches may try to push for vaccination amongst the media covering them; they certainly don’t want players lost or games forfeited thanks to an outbreak that started with a media member. But that appears easier to implement (from what we’ve seen so far) at a private school like Wake Forest or Notre Dame than it is at a public university. However, public universities may be able to impose this too, especially as “must be vaccinated to cover athletics” is a lower bar than “must be vaccinated to attend school here.”
It’s notable that college football in particular has long been maybe the U.S. sport where coaches have had the most power over the media covering them. We’ve seen all sorts of things with college football media access that are far less common anywhere else, from attempts to block non-rightsholder media to coaches telling papers which writers should be able to cover them to specific prohibitions of specific reporters. And with even the NFL already mandating vaccination for media members interacting with players, there may be a case for all sorts of universities to follow suit. We’ve now seen that at some private schools like Notre Dame and Wake Forest, and we may see it at other schools in the days ahead.
[Brett McMurphy on Twitter; photo from Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports]