ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bills receiver Cole Beasley read a prepared statement Wednesday as the team opened training camp to address his position on COVID-19 vaccination, which has drawn widespread scrutiny on social media for being laced with misinformation.
Beasley also shared his concerns with the protocols that have been agreed to by the NFL and NFL Players Association, saying he was speaking on behalf of youngers players without a voice, but did not take questions on the topic. He said later that he called teammate Jerry Hughes and spoke with him on the phone after replying to each other on Twitter earlier this month about vaccines.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said earlier Wednesday that about 80% of the team has received at least the first dose of a vaccine. The coaching staff is fully vaccinated. Two players were placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list to start the season.
“We’ve been trying to educate our guys all through back in May and June,” Beane said. “Our guys have done a really good job of listening and trying to educate themselves and are we 100%? No but a lot of guys have made that decision.”
Beasley’s full statement is below:
“I wanted to start this off by saying I’m not anti- or pro-vax. I’m pro-choice. With that being said, the issue at hand is information is being withheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with. When dealing with a player’s health and safety, there should be complete transparency regarding information that is vital in the decision-making process.
“Without having all the proper information, a player can feel misguided and unsure about a very personal choice. It makes a player feel unprotected and gives concerns about future topics regarding health and our ability to make educated decisions. With regard to our safety, we have to know we are armed with full knowledge and understanding that those who are in a position to help us will always do that based on our individual situation.
“Some people may think that I’m being selfish and making this a ‘me’ thing. It is all about the young players who don’t have a voice and are reaching out to me every day because they’re being told if they don’t get vaxxed, they’ll be cut. Agents are being told by teams if they have unvaccinated guys, they will not be given opportunities as of now to be seen in workouts. So once unvaxxed players get cut, they’re losing a dream they have worked their whole lives for over a vaccine that has proven to not keep people from contracting Covid, as we’ve seen.
[Note: This statement above, as spoken, is false. The vaccines are highly effective at preventing against Covid-19 infection, severe illness and death. Beasley was likely referring to breakthrough cases to those who have been fully vaccinated, which are possible but very unlikely. No vaccine is 100% effective. The NFL reiterated to teams in May that players cannot be cut because of vaccination status and the union can file a grievance if it believes this has happened. Unvaccinated free agents, tryout players or those acquired through trade must test negative for five straight days before they can be around the full team in order to ensure they won’t cause an outbreak, which was also the case last season.]
Beasley continued: “Every doctor I’ve gone to begins sentences with, ‘From what we know now,’ which tells me that we don’t know enough. The NFLPA is working to have vaccinated players tested more frequently than what the NFL initially stated. A lot of players got the vaccination with the idea that these rules are set in stone and they’re not. It is common sense that if a vaxxed or unvaxxed player is tested less frequently, the likelihood of a player being pulled for Covid drops dramatically.
“In regard to player safety, I will conclude by saying we all want to be safe. For so many players around the NFL, safety does not solely mean avoiding the Covid virus. Our health is the now and years beyond, which we are all trying to protect with our personal choice, while doing all the things we did in our protocol during a very successful 2020 NFL season. That’s kind of where the issue has been for me the whole time and that’s how I want to end it right there. I would just ask you guys now if you could just ask me questions relating to football so we can put this to the side and all of us can get to football, if that’s OK with you guys. Appreciate it.”
News 4 reached out to the NFLPA about Beasley’s claims. The union believe it has made all information about vaccines publicly available but did not respond to other questions on the record.
Beasley released a new rap song later Wednesday afternoon and signed off of Twitter for the season. “Ain’t a vaccination for me, only an evacuation,” he sings.