NFL head coach, who is recovering from cancer, goes on rant about vaccine misinformation
Ron Rivera has absolutely had enough.
The Washington Football Team’s head coach did not hold back when talking about how frustrated he was with the amount of distrust there is with COVID-19 vaccines.
“Gen Z is relying on (phones). And you got some, quite frankly, f––– a–––-, that are putting a bunch of misinformation out there, leading people to die,” Rivera, 59, told SI’s Albert Breer in a column published Monday. “That’s frustrating to me, that these people are allowed to have a platform.
“And then one specific news agency, every time they have someone on, ‘I’m not a doctor, but vaccines don’t work,’ Or ‘I’m not an epidemiologist, but vaccines are going to give you a third nipple and make you sterile,’” Rivera continued. “Come on. That, to me? That should not be allowed.”
Rivera – who was one of the first people to get vaccinated after being diagnosed with skin cancer last year, a condition which has left him immunocompromised – has been one of the biggest advocates among his team for players to get vaccinated. His conversation with Breer was about how he’s found his voice to become an advocate for certain topics, especially those like improving the state of health care in the U.S.
“To me, it’s the craziest thing that we’re the richest country in the world and we don’t have affordable health care for everybody,” Rivera said, “that we have a health-care system that’s broken, that I got denied proton therapy 1 / 8for my cancer3 / 8 initially. Thank goodness our owner and my doctors advocated for this treatment, specifically. But being told that just blew me away.”
Before blasting that “one specific news agency,” Rivera told SI of one of his players boasting to him about getting his second vaccine shot at the start of camp this year. From the conversation with that player, Rivera learned that not only did the player not know there were more transmissible variants of the virus emerging, but that the player and others of his age group were only getting their information from what they see on their phones.
But the ever evolving state of vaccinations in the country, and the increase in COVID-19 cases worldwide, spreading more among the unvaccinated, has kept Rivera on edge.
“I have to be careful, I have to wear (a mask),” Rivera said. “We’ve had a couple of situations with players already testing positive for COVID, and that scares the hell out of me, because I interact with these guys.
“There’s enough positive science out there. … So I don’t know why,” Rivera said. “And then they talk about all this distrust, well, if half the world wants (a vaccine) and can’t get it, what’s the problem with us? It frustrates me.”
Rivera’s team had a reported six players on the reserve/COVID-19 list on July 31, the second-most around the league at the time – the Arizona Cardinals had nine. The Washington Football Team was one of the slowest to improve vaccination rates.
Days before camps were set to open in July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a memo to players and teams with an ultimatum that if games get canceled because of an outbreak among unvaccinated players or staff, the team with the outbreak will be forced to forfeit and won’t get paid for the game.
The U.S. has more than 36.2 million COVID-19 positive cases reported as of Aug. 11, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 114K new cases reported. Only about 50% of the country’s total population has been fully vaccinated.