The Potential Impact on Sports Due to the COVID-19 Vaccine: Part 2

Around a month ago, I penned a blog post surrounding the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine and youth sports. In that blog, I mentioned possible circumstances due to the vaccine now made eligible for youth ages 12 and up.

Well, that comment aged.

At the time of publication, more than 500 colleges and universities nationwide have required the vaccine for students to be eligible to return to in-person learning. Yes, this includes student-athletes too.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has not ruled yet on whether all athletes must get the vaccine to participate. This decision has been left up to schools themselves after evaluating the local risk factors of COVID-19.

Many “what-ifs” still surround the vaccine and sports nationwide from a youth level to a professional level.

To be fully vaccinated, an individual must have received the first dose of the vaccine five weeks before the school’s start date. Some schools are going as far to require the individual to be fully vaccinated two full weeks before the start date of in-person learning.

While some students have expressed a great sigh of relief, others have bailed on their university completely. For example, a football player for Boston College chose not to get the vaccine after his university made it mandatory, so he opted to transfer out to a different school before the season even starts.

For the Pac-12 conference collegiate media day, all in-person attendees—this will mainly include coaches and top players from each team—are required to be fully vaccinated before attending. If a person chooses to forego the vaccine, he or she must attend online. Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich is one of the individuals that chose not to be vaccinated, and therefore is attending online.

In a statement posted online to his Twitter account, Rolovich states, “as the Pac-12 Conference has required that all in-person participants at next week’s Pac-12 Football Media Day be fully vaccinated, I will participate remotely and look forward to talking about our football team and the incredible young men in our program.” Rolovich also stated that no further comments were to be made surrounding his decision, citing personal reasons for not getting the vaccine.

Rolovich coaches at a university where it was announced earlier this year that all in-person faculty, staff, and students were required to receive the vaccination.

Some students across the nation, however, are arguing that the requirement—much like the one in place at Washington State University—is against a person’s constitutional rights.

Take the eight-person plea group out of Indiana University as an example. These students filed a lawsuit stating that “the mandatory vaccine is a direct violation of our constitutional rights and violates our bodily autonomy”—also known as the right to what is put into your body.

However, just last week, United States District Court Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend rejected the plea stating that there is no technical force. Students can apply for religious or medical exemption, medical deferral, or take off a year.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ohio’s Governor, Mike DeWine, passed a bill with state legislators that stated all public schools and universities are not allowed to require the vaccine at this time.

This leads to the big question: What if laws like this trickle down to the middle and high school sector now that they are now eligible for the vaccine in the next few months? Will it be up to the coaches? Schools? Parental consent due to the athletes then being minors?

If 2020 taught us one thing, even though I shudder whenever I think of the “double-20-year,” is that we must always be prepared for the unexpected. We must always keep pushing forward and onto the next one. Who knows?